Journal article

“Butoh gives back the feeling to the people”

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Matchett S, Mbasalaki PK

Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): SSH Titles - no Open Select

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Agenda

Volume number: 34

Issue number: 2

Start page: 74

End page: 86

Total number of pages: 13

ISSN: 1013-0950

eISSN: 2158-978X



Our title is a quote from one of the sex workers. She is a member of the Sex Workers’ Theatre Group (SWTG) who made this statement after intense sessions on butoh that lasted three hours each over a period of four days. The SWTG is part of a project that investigates gender and cultures of (in)equality, working with theatre and performance as the main methodological approach. Noting the health of sex workers, physical and emotional − in a legally and structurally constrained environment − is of particular concern, this research considers gendered inequalities through a holistic approach to wellbeing that recognises the specific demands of the contexts in which sex workers work. Working with butoh principals, a form of Japanese dance theatre whose techniques offer an embodied praxis, it draws on embodied cognition and how this manifest through emotion. Butoh techniques, which call for the body to move in non-conventional ways, speak to how the state of the body modifies the state of the mind and by extension, emotions, hence, our title. In this article, we ask two
central questions: within the framework of wellbeing, in what ways does embodied cognition manifest when
butoh techniques are applied with a group of sex workers, whose daily lived experiences are in the midst of
violence – physical, emotional, judicial and structural? And secondly, in this specific context, could butoh offer
strategies that work within the framework of wellbeing? With this framing, we would like to offer some insight
into embodied cognitions that challenge gendered inequality and injustices with a group of sex workers in
Cape Town.


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Last updated on 2021-10-03 at 13:46