Part 1: Exploring body / place connection

I’ve been going back over Somerville’s writing in her Body / Landscape Journals (1999). My main question is why does Somerville frame her relationships as ‘body/place connections’? Is this the same as what others have framed as people-place? Is she responding to a dualism by not ‘perpetuating the Cartesian split between mind and body’? (Liz Ferrier, 1990: 182). S suggested that it might be a reaction to the dominant focus society has on the mind. A coming back to a different way of knowing that is not purely intellectual.

At one point Somerville (1999: 14) writes ‘I become so flat I am the rock, body blends into its surface, tufts of soft green moss around my edges and voices of children playing over me. I am the surface of the earth and they are playing on my edges.’ Not only does Somerville reflect on the experiences of her body, but she suggests through metaphor that body (her body) is landscape, drawing close the idea of expressing being through a non-Western metaphysics.

Somerville (1999: 5) draws on the work of Liz Ferrier (1990) who suggests that ‘Postcolonial transformations require new ways of understanding and representing ourselves in space… [these] involve, in part, inscribing the body in place.’ Ferrier (1990) seems to be pushing for the possibility of
‘body knowledge‘ which I interpret as a whole/integrated way of knowing which is intuitive.

Somerville raises some questions that have been dwelling in my mind space for a while:

‘What stories does mine make space for and which ones does it displace? There is still an overarching sense that all landscape is marked by Aboriginal stories and there has been no resolution to the questions whose land? and whose story can be told?… Does my story write out another story? Does it make room for multiple stories? Can your story be written in here? Is it a postcolonial space?’ (Somerville, 1999: 5).

There are some important questions that arise for me out of reading this, the first is about representation and the post-colonial politics/process of doing this with other people’s stories. Another centers on how I conceptualise the existence of multiple stories and how they interact; and/or whether I focus on stories that are created through collective acts. Also, I am not sure why Somerville has chosen to use the term landscape instead of country / place / land. I have a negative reaction to the use of the word landscape when talking about connection. Perhaps it is because I feel like the word itself detaches me from place – I look at landscapes, I am an observer, not necessarily a participant. I am aware that Somerville has tried to inscribe her body into the landscapes that she writes about, so she must have a more intimate relationship with this word/idea.

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