In his novel Chagrin d’école (2007), the French writer Daniel Pennac already evoked the progressive de-incarnation process he observed in his students during his career as a teacher. He found that the teenagers in front of him were surrounded by a virtual environment and showed a growing tendency to live as mentally detached from the present moment in a remote and virtual space. Yet, Pennac argued, it was the quality of their presences, that of the teacher and the student, the simultaneous presence of their mind and body, that made learning possible.
During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020-2021, we experienced the multiplication of virtual acts and an acceleration towards a withdrawal of our physicality: all documents had to be scanned, classes were delocalized, children were schooled at home, we had to wear masks, debated the use of gloves, and walked awkwardly to avoid contact with others. Most tasks of everyday life were conducted through remote means, including the medical care of our bodies.
Worse still--the pandemic caused the most extreme forms of dematerialization, of disappearing bodies—the deaths of millions of our fellow human beings worldwide, with over 700,000 deaths recorded in the United States alone, a disproportionate death toll wrought on communities of color, with last goodbyes to loved ones dying in hospitals enacted through screens and cameras.
Within this historical moment, we see it as urgent to take a moment to collectively reconsider the Body. Reflecting the research of alumni and current students of the Ph.D. Program in French at the Graduate Center, our November 19 roundtable will focus on different forms of corporality and embodiment and the erasure of bodies and memories, leading us to better understand current and past corpo-reality. Click for Flyer