In Eco Soma, Petra Kuppers asks readers to be alert to their own embodied responses to art practice and to pay attention to themselves as active participants in a shared sociocultural world. Reading contemporary performance encounters and artful engagements, this book models a disability culture sensitivity to living in a shared world, oriented toward more socially just futures.
Eco soma methods mix and merge realities on the edges of lived experience and site-specific performance. Kuppers invites us to become moths, sprout gills, listen to our heart’s drum, and take starships into crip time. And fantasy is central to these engagements: feeling/sensing monsters, catastrophes, golden lines, heartbeats, injured sharks, dotted salamanders, kissing mammoths, and more. Kuppers illuminates ecopoetic disability culture perspectives, contending that disabled people and their co-conspirators make art to live in a changing world, in contact with feminist, queer, trans, racialized, and Indigenous art projects. By offering new ways to think, frame, and feel “environments,” Kuppers focuses on art-based methods of envisioning change and argues that disability can offer imaginative ways toward living well and with agency in change, unrest, and challenge.
Traditional somatics teach us how to fine-tune our introspective senses and to open up the world of our own bodies, while eco soma methods extend that attention toward the creative possibilities of the reach between self, others, and the land. Eco Soma proposes an art/life method of sensory tuning to the inside and the outside simultaneously, a method that allows for a wider opening toward ethical cohabitation with human and more-than-human others.
Petra Kuppers breathes us through connections between embodiment and the earth, weaving queer studies and disability studies into self-guided explorations. Her imagistic text evokes dancing—the pull of gravity and the shifting perspectives of bodies in flow. She moves, she writes, we respond to her autobiographical narratives of environmental spaces and social places.
— Anita Gonzalez, cofounder, Racial Justice Institute, Georgetown University
There is absolutely nothing like Eco Soma in any field. Petra Kuppers provides a much-needed model for what interdisciplinary arts-based research can be, and her work is always put into the context of the lived reality of minoritized communities. She shows us how to write about bodies as she does—unflinchingly, while maintaining respect and dignity.
— Carrie Sandahl, director, Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago
Petra Kuppers’s grounded and reflective investigation encourages generative dialogue within and beyond disability performance studies. Sharing many vivid examples drawn from diverse community scales and sites, her eco soma method both illuminates and prompts creative reimaginings of relations between self, land, other humans, and more-than-humans. Answering the urgent call for multidisciplinary work to address climate catastrophe, she reveals the profound power of art-based methods to engage the body, forge connection, and enact change.
— Kirsty Johnston, University of British Columbia (located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) people)
Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters is a poetic field guide to witnessing community performance, offering a substantive revision of arts-based methods. Petra Kuppers writes through a disability culture lens to describe her performance witnessing in relation to difference. Readers are invited to ‘stumble’, ‘drift’, and ‘vibrate’ alongside Kuppers using I/you/we pronouns to evoke self-wonder in concert with non-human others. Kuppers is a disability culture activist whose speculative writing and collaborative performances adapt disability culture into broader social resonances and theories. ‘Eco soma’ echoes throughout the text as a method for working with somatics in performance production and reception and re-assembles critical theories that shift our concept of environment. Kuppers’ embodied disability experiences of fantasy and discomfort opens her to tracking phenomenological awareness. Queer and crip epistemologies lend grammars to reorienting with spaces in between identity categories (eco-queer-crip). This collection marks sites of inclusion, connecting embodied disability experience with discourses across social sciences and humanities..."
The review ends with: "The labour of reading this layered and performative text generates new research trajectories through realms of sense, affect, and relation. As an artist and scholar engaged in performance, reading this text made available the inner workings of disability performances, and pointed towards an experimental approach where recording and analyzing are situated within participatory work."
— Lori M. Esposito, RIDE: Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance
Kuppers animates the concepts of disability culture with unexplored ways of witnessing performances through uncertain being and identifying. The fundamental questions Kuppers gently invites the readers to explore about their own encounters and identifications with the human, nonhuman and fantastic worlds are especially important for a world grappling with the continued realities of a global pandemic, of reassessing one’s place and purpose, privileges and uncertainties.
Kuppers encourages a process of self-discovery and entanglement through her examples. I encountered the book while in a state of continuous burnout and little respite, and the journeys undertaken by the author and her collaborative performance artists felt like a hopeful invitation. Kuppers sets the stage through example for people from different lineages to ethically and consciously approach non-totalizing being and speculative realities.
— Amala Poli, Synapsis
Engaging with the intersection of the self and the environment in the wide array of well-chosen performances it analyses, Petra Kuppers’s Eco Soma substantially invites a rethinking of material enmeshments embodied in the self that is marked by various agencies—be they geographical, historical, or cultural.
Relevant and grounding.