Embodied Knowledge & Habitus on the Farm

By: Adrianne Bryant and Leigh Bush

“…to understand is to experience the harmony between what we aim at and what is given, between the intention and the performance – and the body is our anchorage in a world…” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962: 144)

I’m standing in the grain hopper, a large trapezoidal red wagon with a door at the bottom. Adrianne pokes her head in the small door and looks up at me.

I open the stiff hopper door, trying to get it just a little bit wider so I can reach up inside with my long, wooden-handled hook. I stick my face right up to the door and peer in, breathing in bits of grain. I see Leigh standing on a small pile of molded chicken feed.

Adrianne begins to thrust her hook in my direction, clawing at the bits she can reach. These rubber boots I’ve been given are too big, and gravity fights against me at every step.

I reach the hook awkwardly up the sloping metal bottom of the hopper and struggle to scrape away some greenish cakes of feed, while Leigh tries to accomplish the same goal with her hoe from inside.

Precariously, I place a single foot upon a clump of feed, hoping it will hold. I swing my hoe, willing it to do what my arm and mind desire. Pathetically, it drops upon the cluster of feed without loosening so much as a grain. This is why, we quickly learn, you make feed on a dry day.

The door that was stiffly stuck open suddenly slips closed on top of the handle of my tool. Thankfully my hands and Leigh’s toes are well out of the way. I heave the door open again. This is why you don’t let the feed get wet, I think to myself.

I realize I’ll have to cross to get at the rest of the moldy crust that has formed around the opposite edge. Carefully, holding onto the top edge of the hopper, I place a flat foot on the slippery metal bottom. Thinking I’ll take one delicate step before lightly passing to a sturdier grain clod across from me, I spread my leg out wide. BANG! My foot slips and I land clumsily against the wagon floor with a hollow thud.  My arm sears in pain with the wrench from my full body weight, but I’m able to hold on.

Leigh is moving around inside the hopper, and the whole thing shakes with her shifting weight. Suddenly, the metal structure booms like thunder – she must have slipped and fell. I crouch down to see if she’s alright.

I pull my clumsy legs back up the steep slope. Adrianne peers in just as I steady myself on the opposite edge. I promptly put the “I’ve-got-it-together” look on my face before reassuring her. Nerves shaken, I return to hacking my little island of moldy safety away, watching it shrink around me, and knowing that I’ll have to cross the frontier all over again.

During our first week on the Moody farm we are asked to clean out a grain hopper that has cakes of moldy feed stuck to the bottom, a straightforward task involving shoveling, scraping, and loading buckets of rancid grain. Farmer Adam Moody does not want his pasture-fed feeder beef finished on spoiled fodder. Like almost every other task we do during our month-long internship, this task calls for embodied knowledge we are yet to possess. By our last week on the farm we are not only adept at dealing with the dusty hopper and its temperamental door, but we are also able to do these things swiftly, conserving energy with each thrust of the shovel and swing of a bucket, and within moments we can get the grain moving out of the hopper with a well-timed rock of the chamber. This is embodied knowledge, a type of programmed intellect held in both body and mind, which we would neither understand nor gain outside of this environment. Furthermore, while we share this embodied education, we each experience it differently. The experience is mediated by our mindsets, previous experiences and, to put it anthropologically, our habituses. As two young female graduate students with similar histories and appearances (so similar, in fact, that we frequently get mistaken for each other) we arrive to the Moody farm, and as two weary farmer neophytes we leave. In that time our experiences overlap and diverge while we perform nearly identical actions or witness the same events.

First, our mention of habitus deserves further explanation. Habitus refers to the whole combination of physical and mental dispositions toward certain ways of acting that a person has as a result of a life of experience in a particular cultural context (Bourdieu 1977). These dispositions are not necessarily conscious, but they are instead basically programmed into a body. This concept was most famously used by the linguistic sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, but his fellow Frenchman Marcel Mauss expounded upon habitus before him. Mauss thought of habitus as “techniques of the body,” or ways that our bodies are taught to function or behave in virtually everything we do (Mauss 1935). Mauss argues that from the very beginning of our lives onward, our experiences and our cultural education shape the ways in which we use our bodies. The minute movements that we have when we walk or take a sip of water are not simply biological acts. They are to some extent biological, but also to some extent learned beginning at a young age. Mauss envisions these physical ways of moving, these techniques, as the result of informal education or parental influence, such as parents telling children, “sit up straight,” or “don’t shuffle your feet when you walk.” But in addition to such instruction, watching and mimicking others, the physical requirements of a particular situation, the physical strengths and weaknesses of a particular body, personality and psychology, along with countless other environmental and biological factors, shape an individual’s habitus.

Our habituses, for example, are those of two small-statured women that were raised “in town,” as the Moodys might say. Our postures and dispositions reflect our cultural upbringing as middle-class, highly educated, young American women. For exercise we go to the gym, ride our bikes or go on a jog. For work we read books, sit in front of a computer, or attend lectures. Though we’ve each held slightly more physically-engaged jobs, we currently rarely work with or against our bodies directly to accomplish a difficult task except, perhaps, during an hour of Ashthanga yoga for which we pay around $15. Our previous farming experience is scant. Our bodies are primarily of the academy, as is our knowledge, and we are thus predisposed to that particular type of work.  

While we do not have “techniques of the body” or habituses particularly well-suited to farm work, Isaac does. Isaac, Adam Moody’s son, is the farm manager and our foreman. He has been working on the family farm since he was “as young as [he] was able, and probably younger than that,” as he says. If Isaac’s childhood was anything like his nephew’s, he was likely interacting physically on the farm from day one. Three-year old Oliver’s mother routinely brings him out to sit on the tractor while we work to load the attached grinder with whole corn cobs. When Isaac and Adam work around the barn, he will eagerly play with tools and baling wire, informing his uncle and grandfather that he’s “fixin’ somefin’,” mimicking the nearly a daily activity he sees the men doing, a task that’s crucial to a diversified farm stocked with decades-old equipment. Farm work is not innate, but it is instilled and embodied at a young age, making it a large part of each habitus in the Moody family.

As a result, the work of farming is practically programmed into Isaac’s body. He has just the right touch to start the perpetually-broken corn elevator every time we grind animal feed. When baling hay, our bodies clumsily wrestle with the heavy bales, struggling to retrieve, stack, and tie the bales to each other on a slippery and moving trailer, but Isaac’s body performs the task with little contemplation, hesitation, or undue effort. His hands know just how and when to grab the bale strings as they are spit from the baler, and his arms know exactly how hard to toss the bale, landing it snugly in its assigned spot without destabilizing the towering pyramid already piled in the trailer. Neither does he lose his balance on the slippery metal floor as we bumpily lumber forward. For Isaac, knowledge is practice (Lock 1993).

And so, habitus, being the lens through which we interact with the outside world, involves the collapse of dualities between mind and body (Csordas 1990, Bourdieu 1977, Merleau-Ponty 1962). This leads us to the concepts of embodiment and embodied knowledge. In the academic world, we think of knowledge as directly associated with the mind. We hold the information we learn and ideas we work with in our heads, not our hands. But in more physical fields of work, one’s body must “know” as much as one’s mind. This is not to say that the repetitive bodily practices of academic work are not embodied knowledge at all. After all, both of us can type out a paper with the swiftness of a 1950s secretary. Having the patience and focus to sit reading and writing for hours on end is embodied work of its own kind, and effectively delivering complex ideas to a group of intelligent classmates requires a learned bodily calm. But work on the farm forces us to recognize and minimize this mind/body divide because of the more overt embodied nature of farmwork.

Individuals’ embodied interactions with their physical worlds play “central roles in social information processing” (Barsalou et al. 2003, 1), or learning. When we begin our farmwork, our process of embodied agricultural education begins, and the body becomes more central for our learning than it has in our recent past. In essence, it becomes what Bourdieu refers to as “the principle generating and unifying all practices” (1977, 124). In other words, our bodies do much of the learning on the farm, and the knowledge we gained through the work can be thought of as embodied techniques.

Scientifically speaking, embodiment may refer “both to actual bodily states and to simulations of experience in the brain’s modality-specific systems for perception, action, and introspection” (Niedenthal et al. 2005). This means that we feel physical experience in our bodies, but our minds can also imagine and remember what bodily experience is like. Though we cannot share and communicate our actual embodied learning on the farm, we can attempt to convey our memory of what that experience was like. We do so below.

When we drive out to the “Pull Houses” for the first time it seems like an exciting task. Excellent, we think, we get to collect chicken eggs like Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz. Here with Isaac, however, each of us is equipped with a 5 gallon bucket loaded with feed in place of a light cotton apron. Most of the plastic rings around the metal handles have broken and fallen off leaving the metal to dig into our palms, producing tender spots that will eventually grow into calluses. We step into the chicken house, and the stench of ammonia assaults our senses. We scrunch up our faces, yearning to relieve ourselves of this olfactory burden as soon as possible. But we must immerse ourselves into the smelly sea of 300 clucking hens. We locate the feeders in which we are to dump our buckets of grain, and we open the tops. Like hidden Easter eggs, we find clean brown orbs nestled atop existing mounds of feed. How do the hens get in and out of there, we wonder? After retrieving these hidden gems, we dump our buckets on top and ensure the feed is flowing freely into the troughs below. Isaac shows us how to plunge a piece of rebar into the grain, poking it down into the trough to loosen it in spots where it’s likely to “bridge.”

The chickens incessantly hop up to the ledge of the waist-high feeder to get at the feed, and we are uncertain how to remove them at first. But we see Isaac sweep them nonchalantly away, confident that they’ll land on their feet. We each try hesitantly nudging their bellies out of the way, but the resistance we feel makes us push a little harder.

We begin to gather eggs from the surrounding nest boxes, learning that the job is not nearly as peaceful as expected. Isaac proceeds to swiftly reach in and out, grabbing several eggs at a time and quickly moving on to the next box. There is no explaining this process; it is most certainly one that must be learned through performance. The menacing noise of the crowd of tiny fowl fanning out around us gets louder as we each square up with our first adversary. “BWWAAAAA!” remarks the crowd. “PICKAWWW!!” screams one of the mob. We reach our gloved hands gingerly beneath the hens’ round bodies, nudging them upward.. We remove the eggs carefully, one at a time and place them into our buckets. But this is slow, and Isaac’s already waiting at the door. As we move from nest to nest, we find that some hens are more aggressive. Worse, Moody does not clip all the beaks on all his ladies, and some boast menacing mouths that curve like talons. The first time we reach in and a defensive hen darts its head right at our knuckles with its pointed beak, we jump in surprise. Worrying that the birds might peck only instills more hesitation.

Although some nest boxes have lost their straw, making the eggs inside more likely to be covered in chicken shit, Leigh soon removes her gloves to more easily grasp several eggs at time. But Adrianne finds herself slowed with hesitance when she experiments without gloves, trying to dodge the pecking beaks. She leaves them on and feels more roughly with her hands. After days of this process we learn to grasp gently at the neck while collecting from the more violent bitties. Our hands are small and we stretch to pull out more than one at a time. Over the weeks Leigh is able to grab four at a time, cradling them like globes in her bare fingers. Adrianne can only carry three in her glove, but when Leigh is halted by particularly violent birds who threaten to draw blood, Adrianne confidently steps in to assist with her gloved hand.

It is difficult to know how gingerly one must grasp an egg. This knowledge seems to have two stages: the first, is knowing that eggs are not so fragile that they cannot be piled to ¾ the height of a 5 gallon bucket, the second is that each egg is truly different from the next. One egg may be fragile while another’s shell is like a sturdy ceramic bowl. Young hens produce tiny eggs while older ones pop out duck-egg sized bombs. Some eggs are sinewy and rough, others pearly and smooth. All these textures we feel with our hands, learning to sense their individual characteristics before abandoning these thoughts as we continue working. It seems that Isaac doesn’t notice these things until we call attention to them.

Recently, a city-dwelling friend incredulously argued, “So you’re telling me that if you were trying to teach 10,000 people to farm it would be more efficient to make each one farm than to give them a book about farming?” We insist the former. Our farming experience, even tasks as seemingly simple as feeding animals or collecting eggs, shows us that learning embodied technique is integral to accomplishing the daily work quickly and efficiently. Because Isaac’s embodied awareness, in some ways, comes prior to consciousness (Lock 1993), written or verbal instructions would not have sufficed in conveying the same bodily knowledge we attain by physically performing the actions required. In fact, even when we try to get such instructions we soon learned that they are largely impractical. Through performing the tasks of farmwork, one sees how the body is “at once an object of technique, a technical means, and the subjective origin of technique” (Csordas 1990: 11). Physically learning, experimenting with, and performing new kinds of work breaks down the mind/body duality. We hold the knowledge we attain at the farm in our very bodies, and it would be a comic farce to the farmer and apprentice alike to think it could be attained as deeply any other way.

Though we nearly always work together performing the same tasks at the same time, our embodied experiences are often distinct, shedding light on our differing predispositions. During our time at the Moody farm, we also work at the meat processing facility. We find that, in particular, we sense and react to meat processing differently. In the following section we depict our differing perceptions of the same event.

Adrianne’s lens:

On our fifth day of our internship with Moody Meats, we feed the animals on the farm early in the morning before driving to the slaughter facility. We go directly from caring for these animals whose ultimate fate is to be human food, to the site where their lives end and their bodies are taken apart. I have seen dead animals before. During high school, my hunter father hung deer and elk carcasses right outside my window. But this would be my first day watching large animals go from mooing and oinking to hanging skinless in a meat closet. Deeply curious about this crucial aspect of meat production, I actually look forward to facing the reality of the moment in which living, breathing mammals are killed, skinned, and gutted, though I am aware the scene will be one of the more gruesome I’ve seen in real life.

We walk into the building and greet the workers in the break room, where bacon is fragrantly sizzling and creamed corn simmers on the stove. A door at the end of a long hallway leads to the kill floor. I have no idea how I will react to the scene on the other side of the door, and I feel the anticipation in my stomach. Can we just open the door and walk in? Will we be in the way? Leigh, ever the less hesitant of our team of two, pushes the door open and sticks just her head in. I look over her shoulder. Two massive sides of beef, wet and brownish-red, hang from the ceiling in front of our faces. On the far side of the room, Adam and an older man, Curt, hook a laid-out skinned beef up to a hook to be hoisted into hanging position. Adam sees us peek in, and motions for us to enter. We both flash a big smile, but she marches across the room to him, while I step in and remain near the door. I don’t want to get in the way, and I am viscerally overwhelmed. I want the open door in view as a symbolic escape-route in case my body can’t handle the gruesome scene in front of me.

Three dead animals are in view, at various stages in the slaughter process. Blood is all over the floor. As Curt guts a beef, organs come sliding out of the hanging cow and into a big plastic bin full of animal parts. A cow head, covered in blood protrudes from a hook, waiting for someone to dig inside and cut out its tongue. Adam thoroughly sprays down side of beef they had just finished sawing in half with a high-pressured hose to clean it before weighing it. Another cow is brought in to face its destiny. The smell is strong – animals, raw flesh, and a tinge of rot from the sewers below. I don’t want to touch anything; I’m not sure my stomach can handle feeling the gory bits of animal on my hands while watching it’s brethren get dismembered. Leigh, on the other hand, is eager to get her hands bloody and immerse herself – her body – as much as possible in the scene.

I am fascinated – I want to and don’t want to look at the same time. I try to smile and write strength onto my expression. Finally, a beef is going to be slid on it’s ceiling track to the weigh station and I’m forced to move. I walked to the middle of the room and stand near Leigh, right next to the bloody cow head on a spike.

“Heeey boss hey boss hey boss,” BANG! goes Curt, talking to a cow before shooting it between the eyes with a ’22. The cow immediately collapses and its weight slumps against the bars of the iron cage surrounding it. I jump inside my skin as it falls.

Adam was standing next to me. “You ok?” he asks quietly.

“Yeah,” I say with a big breath, a smile, and raised eyebrows. The life of this cow is out like a light, sacrificed to the Moody’s business, sacrificed to the appetites of meat-eating Hoosiers. Seeing a big mammal living and breathing, moving around, looking at you, making noise, and then dead in an instant, basically fresh burger still wrapped in hide, was the missing piece of the puzzle that my head and my body needed to experience. You cannot fully know this event through simply an abstract awareness that animals are killed to for human food. You cannot gain this knowledge through reading a description of a kill or even seeing slaughterhouse footage on a television screen. To be on the kill floor, surrounded by the event, feeling the air and connecting with expressions on the faces of those doing this work, is to know what meat eating truly entails. While pity and sadness are apparent on my face in the moments before its death, I do not regret or wish otherwise the death of this animal, even during its final breath. To eat is to kill.

This swirling dust-devil of emotion that the kill stirred up mixes with the visceral disgust of watching Kurt plunge his knife deep into the neck of the now strung-up beef to cut the jugular. What seems like gallons of blood gush out and splash onto the concrete basin. A few minutes later he cuts off the animal’s head, then uses mechanized hooks and pulleys to lie the animal flat on a special piece of equipment. He slits the animal all the way down the belly and cuts and pulls its skin away from its organs, like peeling a fruit. After it is decapitated and skinned, the beef only vaguely resembles the animal it was just ten minutes before. After a few cows are slaughtered, it’s time for some hogs to face their doom.

Overwhelmed, I make my way to the door for a breather. As I enter the hallway, the aroma of warm three-pepper bacon lures me back to the break room. I know from my medical assistant days that food often relieves nausea, so I steal a delicious, spicy, salty, and fatty treat. Looking down at my greasy fingers, an idea strikes. I carry two pieces of bacon back down the hall, stick my head in the doorway, and motion for Leigh to join me. We stand away from the action and munch at our savory bacon while watching hogs get skinned and gutted. Together, we taste the pleasure and watch the pain simultaneously.

Leigh’s Lens:

We walk into a group of men gathered around a hearty 10AM meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, creamed corn and refried beans. Whoooeee. They look at us. Girls. Two of ‘em. Ready to see the slaughter? Yeah boss, I sure am.

Down a hallway and into the back room. I hear water hitting the ground; it could be a car wash. I push open the door a smidge, a rough-hewn boy with a forearm covered in tats looks at me with consternation.

“Can I help you?” he asks with concern, presumably about what is behind the door that he blocks.

“Um, hi, uh, I came to see Adam, er, Mr. Moody.” I push the door open a little wider and slide in.

An 800 pound beef (that’s what they call them) hangs, enormously in the center of the floor. It’s hide is 2/3 detached and hangs like a draped rug from the part that is still attached along is back. He’s already been “decapped” (I believe is the expression) and his head sits on a peg awaiting tongue removal nearby. One bulbous black eyes stares at me as I cross the kill floor to approach the massive hanging animal. I want to be part of this action. His feet are gone too and sit in a trash can to my right: the hooves are still covered in mud from the last earth they touched.

In the slit that stretches from neck to tail I can see a few glossy organs awaiting their expulsion. A large metal tray is rolled over for their dumping. Carefully, the men, all in teal aprons tied around the waste like a bloodthirsty Julia Child, slice around four stomachs, lungs, liver, spleen and intestines. Each man (some of them boys really), and there are four, has slung a holster along his apron for a few knives and a sharpener. Every now and then I see another tatted out boy, Spencer, sharpen one with a few expert swishes along the blade. He is a connoisseur of killing with the gun as well, and I can’t help but hope he appreciates my lust for action.

A man seemingly twice my age holds a chainsaw that is suspended from the ceiling. He calls everyone boss, including the cow he’s about to knock. As he starts it up the room vibrates with its earth-shattering noise. Moody stands around front as the old man, wearing a tattered sweatshirt that has been cut to be short sleeves, wrenches his way down the beef’s spine. Every few seconds Moody separates and elevates the animal so that the man can keep sawing. Before long the beef is two halves and ready for trimming.

All the meanwhile a man in pristine white, down to the toes and up to the hard hat, observes. He is our state inspector. I’m skeptical of him at first, as I know that federal slaughtering laws require absurdly expensive facilities that prohibit small operations from affording their own meat processing, which is, traditionally, even cleaner than the most regulated large slaughterhouses (Moody’s small operation is rated the best in the state of Indiana).

Spencer pulls the gun off the wall to kill the next hogs (try calling them pigs and see if they understand you), that he’s coaxed into the inside pen. He lines up for the shot and “click”, nothing.

“One” counts the inspector.

Spencer aims again. “Click”

“Two” chimes, again, the man in white.

Certain that there is a bullet in that barrel somewhere, he tries one more time. “Click.” No dice.

“Three, that’s it.”

“Dammit.” Spencer runs to get more bullets.

“Oh no” I wonder, as the man in white begins to call after Spencer. “Is that bad? Can this boy get fired because his weapon is not working?”

I soon realize my mistake. The inspector is joshing the boy because he has missed three times in the presence of a lady. A lady, mind you, whose hand is now soaked in blood from feeling the cow organs he has just inspected. In college terms this is merely an “epic fail.”

Spencer returns, gun loaded and, “Crack!” One hog drops to the floor and begins to twitch violently in the throws of immediate death. “Crack!“a second hog drops, mimicking the first.

I look to the door and see Adrianne waving my way. She has stepped out to get relief from all the action. Part of me has hoped that her absence will give me a chance to wield the gun, but as I see her approach something even better happens: juxtaposition. Adrianne hands me a piece of three-pepper bacon which I promptly begin to munch as we continue to watch the action on the kill floor. From feeding the animals in the morning to seeing them die in the afternoon, to savoring their flesh as we witness it, this experience has come around “whole hog”. Soon, I think, my day will come with that ‘22 too, and I plan on only needing one shot for the task.

We asked ourselves here to separately reflect on our perception of “the slaughter.” The text reveals this event as deeply visceral, experienced in our minds and bodies together, and offering us each knowledge through that experience.

Also apparent in this text, our general perceptions and participation in the slaughter differed. This is clear not only in what we choose to write about in reference to the same event, but also how we choose to express it, what we emphasize, and our general reactions. We experience the same event differently and therefore know it differently.

Why is this so? As we discussed above, differing social histories produce distinct habituses. Despite our myriad similarities and our shared  experience, our perception of the slaughter is mediated by our individual, unique habituses. In a similar vein, Hallowell discusses embodiment as mediated by our socially constituted perceptual processes, which are, in turn, linked with social constraints and cultural meanings (Csordas 1990). That is to say, we think and act according to our habitus, and the way we interpret the world around us in a bodily manner occurs in a context that is informed by our social past. Adrianne gets nauseous by the kill, while Leigh gets excited.

Before a new experience even begins, we have oriented ourselves according to such personal histories. These realities are reiterated by O’Connor:

“even that very first experience of the novice must be informed by some experience… In fact, she arrives at her first day with already equipped dispositions and schemata for handling the forthcoming situations, experiences that must bear on her very first moments” (2005: 191).

And so, despite our myriad similarities, we enter a space where each one of us is bound to experience the same event differently.

In this specific case, how do our subjective histories and realities come to bear on the experience? It is impractical if not impossible to describe the totality of our habituses, but we may mention a few key components. Adrianne comes in having seen elk carcasses hanging from her father’s back deck, but has never killed a large mammal herself. She is at first taken aback and then fascinated by the vivid scene. But Leigh, while not having been around carcasses in her childhood, has instead sought the excitement of the kill in her recent past. She is relatively more accustomed to the gore of animal slaughter, and thus desires to be hands on and hands in the kill. Our different biologies, personalities, and learning styles also come into play to tailor our experiences. For example, we discover in the course of our month, that Leigh prefers to learn through performing a new task with her own body, while Adrianne prefers to watch someone teach her the task before undertaking it herself. Again, this particular disposition is a result of differing social pasts. On nights when we can keep our eyes open we reflect on these distinctions, finding that during Leigh’s childhood, Leigh would get chastised for standing idle, while Adrianne’s father scolded her for doing work incorrectly. Could it be habitus revealed?

One month later our hands, arms, legs and feet begin to think for us. We grow stronger and swifter in new ways — ways that can only be achieved through shoveling, feeding, watering, butchering, gathering, building, washing and so on. Unlike O’Connor’s commentary that “…adaptation is not conscious; it happens at the level of the body” (2005: 191), we are constantly reminded that our farming habitus is forming through our bodily actions, finding that “knowledge in the hands” truly is “forthcoming only when bodily effort is made” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962: 144). We reflect nightly over our wounds and calluses. Although oftentimes one of us succeeds in an activity that defeats the other, we ask ourselves, through our shared experience, do our habituses come one step closer?

By the month’s end, we find that we can perform tasks in tandem without checking in verbally. We independently come up with the same conclusions for efficiently accomplishing a day’s work. We similarly interpret the Moody family and our farmwork. Even our biceps have grown similar bulges from the strength we have gained. In the end, we also feel more a part of the farming community and invested in the farm’s success. This might be because we forged meaningful friendships with those we worked with. It might also be because the embodied knowledge we gained satisfied our passionate curiosity about food production. Or perhaps its simply because, as Bourdieu writes, “people’s adherence to an institution is directly proportional to the severity and painfulness of the rites of initiation.” (Bourdieu 1977: 123). To be cliché, the more the pain, the more the gain.


We would like to extend our gratitude to the Moody family for hosting and teaching us during our internship with them. This experience and education was invaluable to us. Isaac’s unending patience made him an excellent farmwork instructor, and Adam was a joy to work with as well.  In addition, thanks to Dr. Richard Wilk for administering this internship.

Work Cited

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Language and Symbolic Power. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

Barsalou, Lawrence W.,  Paula M. Niedenthal, Aron K. Barbey, and Jennifer A. Ruppert. 2003. Social Embodiment. The Psychology of Learning and Motivation. 43:43-92.

Csordas, T. 1990. Embodiment as a paradigm for anthropology. Ethos. 18:5-47.

Lock, Margaret. 1993. Cultivating the body: anthropology and epistemologies of bodily practice and knowledge. Annual Review of Anthropology. 22:133-135.

Mauss, Marcel. 2006. Techniques of the Body. In: Techniques, Technology, and Civilization. Ed. Nathan Schlanger. Durkheim Press: NY.

Merleau-Ponty, M. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. Transl. C Smith. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

O’Connor, Erin. 2005. Embodied Knowledge. Ethnography. 6(2):183-204.

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