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The Topsy-Turvy Centaur: The Production of Human Bodies and Equine Minds in Riding Schools
Uppsala universitet, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
2016 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This presentation is based on preliminary findings from an ethnographic study of adult pupils at riding schools. The study is part of the research project Intimate Sociality: Practice and Identity in Collective Housing, Human-Animal Relations and Couple Dancing, based at The Institute for Future Studies (project leader: Maria Törnqvist). The study explores the kind of intimacy that pupils strive for and often find at riding schools in relation to human and equine animals. Intimate sociality at riding schools is brief and momentary: during and in connection to riding classes the participants share experiences of a wide range of events and emotions, but the discussions and social relations at the schools are generally left behind when the pupils return home. Nevertheless, riding school interactions between humans and horses have a deeper resonance in the lives of the pupils. As part of their education, the pupils learn to control their bodies. This control means that the pupils start to pay attention to their own physical being, rather than their thoughts, in contrast to the usual emphasis on the cerebral in their everyday lives. In this way, the riders let their bodies take control of their minds, rather than the other way around. Further, to attune their bodies to the horses they ride, it becomes crucial to ascribe a mind and personhood to the horses. This turns the widespread idea of the horse and rider as a centaur with a horse’s body and a human mind literally upside down. In the empirical material—both during observations and in interviews—the rider is emphasized as body, while the horse is emphasized as a minded being. I discuss this peculiar creature—the topsy-turvy centaur—in relation to Michel Foucualt’s conceptualization of power and Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s use of the figure of the horse in her theorization of inequality, and suggest that this figure challenges not only ideals related to contemporary capitalist society, but also ideals associated with being human. However, while leisure riding opens up for certain subversive possibilities for the riding human, it is not necessarily the same for the horses involved. This is also recognized by the pupils in the study: they continuously orient to the inequality between humans and horses in the way they talk about themselves, other humans, and the horses they ride.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm, 2016.
Keywords [en]
Alienation, animal studies, centaurs, horses, human-animal studies, riding schools, zooethnography
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Social Anthropology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-45405OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-45405DiVA, id: diva2:1357663
Conference
Equine Cultures in Transition, October 27–29, 2016, Stockholm, Sweden
Projects
Intimitetens sociala former
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 421-2014-1465Available from: 2019-10-04 Created: 2019-10-04 Last updated: 2019-10-11Bibliographically approved

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http://www.frdi.net/pdfs/events/EQUINE-CULTURES-IN-TRANSITION.pdf

Authority records BETA

Redmalm, David

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