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 Gemma Lucas

Gemma Lucas

PhD Research Student

 

Overview

PhD research 

My PhD research uses feminist, ethnographic and creative approaches to explore firstly how contemporary UK yoga affects body shame, and secondly how yoga can be used as a method to research shame and body shame. 

There are complex tensions within practices like yoga which centralise both the discipline and care of the body. Such disciplining tendencies, particularly when co-opted by neoliberal and normative gendered notions of body, health and wellbeing, can increase ‘corporeal anxiety’ (Little, 2013). However, an inward facing imperative can also foster a more caring, less shameful relationship with the body (Dolezal, 2011). The encouragement of relationality and connection, the complex relationship between discourse, sensory experience, spatial affects, and the corporeal practice of yoga is affecting practitioners’ experience of and through their bodies in a myriad of, currently under-explored and little understood, ways.  

I will explore these tensions through the lens of 'body shame', asking whether yoga affects body shame, and how the relationship between yoga and body shame is gendered. 

Fundamentally this research is interested in firstly, how mental distress (with a focus on shame) is rooted in intersecting systemic oppressions, and, secondly, how words alone are insufficient to describe, process and potentially heal from shame.  By using artistic, creative, and/or bodily practices as methodology I will open novel analytic lines for understanding (intersectional) gender, wellbeing, and mental health outside of normative, neoliberal and medico-scientific discourses. 

Methodology 

I am combining ethnography with innovative, creative and embodied research methods in this project.  

Researching emotions and feelings such as shame and body shame presents epistemological and methodological challenges. Conventional approaches to research rely heavily on discursive means of capturing and conveying experience which have limited utility when seeking to understand emotions and feeling experiences that are ‘beyond words’ (Vannini, 2015; McCormack, 2015).   

Following on from the success of my recent ‘Moving Shame’ workshop (partially funded by a WCCEH ERA award and Wellcome Shame & Medicine Project), I am collaborating with a team of yoga teachers, artists and therapists to co-develop a research method that, like ‘Moving Shame’, uses a combination of creative, embodied practices yoga, shame and body shame in novel ways.  This research method will involve practicing yoga with participants before engaging a range of creative activities to explore shame and body shame.

By developing this method  collaboratively, with a team of partners whose lived experience and relevant (non-academic) professional expertise can combine with my academic knowledge to ensure the ‘yoga-and creative exploration’ sessions that we develop are accessible and appropriate for researching shame with an intersectionally diverse range of participants.  

Artistic collaborations 

I am also interested in the intersections between art and academia, and have been working collaboratively with artists on various projects during my PhD so far including a collaborative project with a yoga teacher/counsellor (Catherine Forrester), an illustrator (Elizabeth Fortnum) and a writer/psychotherapist/creative consultant (Dr Meg-John Barker) through which we developed a two day workshop investigating the relationship between yoga, gender and body shame through yoga practice and the co-production of an illustrated zine. Also, as part of a work placement with Arts and Culture Exeter  I collaborated with two artists (Paper florist Bee Watson and graffiti artist Cinna Solar) on a project exploring how art and creative practice can impact the negative mental health effects of racial discrimination through an Artists Residency and a series of workshops. 

Background

These interests developed through many years of interdisciplinary study, including a BA in English Language and Literature at King’s College London, a dual-award Erasmus Mundus Masters of Excellence in Gender Studies at the Universities of Oviedo (Spain) and Hull (UK) and most recently, an MRes in Critical Human Geographies at the University of Exeter.

For my MA in Gender Studies I undertook an ethnographic research project from which I wrote a dissertation that explored how yoga spaces and practices provide potential openings for the development of less shame-driven attitudes to the body, but also how this potentiality is militated against by a broader embedding within a neoliberal culture in which a critical, disciplining and inward-looking mode of self-evaluation predominates.

Studying for these degrees I have had the opportunity to study, live and work both transnationally and trans-disciplinarily which I am certain has contributed to my tendency towards creative thinking and methods.

I am also a qualified and practicing yoga teacher.

Broad Research Specialisms

My broad interests and research specialisms include yoga, gender, interdisciplinary feminism and shame and body shame.

Within geography I am situated broadly within cultural geography and I contribute in particular to geographies of the body and feminist geographies.

I am also interested in feminist, qualitative, ethnographic, and creative methodologies and exploring the intersections between academic and artistic/creative practice.

Supervisors

My PhD is supervised by Dr Jennifer Lea, Professor Luna Dolezal and Professor John Wylie.

Affiliations

I am funded by the SWDTP / ESRC.

I am member of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and I am a Collaborator on the Wellcome Shame and Medicine Project.

Qualifications

2014: (First Class Hons) BA English Language and Literature, King’s College London

2017: (Distinction/Distinction) Erasmus Mundus Masters of Excellence in Gender Studies, Dual Award at University of Hull / University of Oviedo

2020: (Distinction) MRes in Critical Human Geographies, University of Exeter.

Links

Research group links

Research

Research interests

My broad interests and research specialisms include yoga, gender, shame and body shame.

Within geography I am situated broadly within cultural geography and I contribute in particular to geographies of the body and feminist geographies.

I am also interested in feminist, qualitative, ethnographic, embodied and creative methodologies and exploring the intersections between academic and artistic/creative practice.

In my PhD research, I use ethnographic and creative methodologies to explore how yoga and other practices of ‘wellbeing spirituality’ affect shame and gender.

I am also developing an embodied method that uses movement (including yoga) and creative practices to facilitate conversations about shame.

Research projects

Upcoming workshop: https://shameandmedicine.org/moving-shame-workshop-10-11-july-2021-bristol-uk/

Research networks

My PhD is funded by the South West Doctoral Training (SWDTP) branch of the ESRC.

My supervisors are: Dr Jennifer Lea, Professor John Wylie and Professor Luna Dolezal.

I am also a member of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (https://wcceh.org/) and a collaborator on the Wellcome Trust Shame and Medicine Project (https://shameandmedicine.org/).

Publications

Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year

Publications by category


Journal articles

Dolezal L (2022). Differential Experiences of Social Distancing: Considering Alienated Embodied Communication and Racism. Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology, Vol.5, 97-105. Abstract.

Chapters

Asker C, Lucas G, Lea J (2021). Non-representational Approaches to COVID-19. In  (Ed) COVID-19 and Similar Futures, 85-90.

Conferences

Lucas G (2022). Yoga, the Really Real, and gendered body shame. Yoga darśana, yoga sādhana. Methods, migrations, mediations. 18th - 21st May 2022.

Publications by year


2022

Dolezal L (2022). Differential Experiences of Social Distancing: Considering Alienated Embodied Communication and Racism. Puncta: Journal of Critical Phenomenology, Vol.5, 97-105. Abstract.
Lucas G (2022). Yoga, the Really Real, and gendered body shame. Yoga darśana, yoga sādhana. Methods, migrations, mediations. 18th - 21st May 2022.

2021

Asker C, Lucas G, Lea J (2021). Non-representational Approaches to COVID-19. In  (Ed) COVID-19 and Similar Futures, 85-90.

Gemma_Lucas Details from cache as at 2022-11-30 14:58:32

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