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My master's thesis 'Understanding Contemporary Dance. An Epistemological Framework Drawing on Cognitive Science' seeks to extend the debate on the relationship between dance and knowledge by integrating embodiment theory, enactivism, and neuroaesthetics. I hypothesize that these subfields of cognitive science could contribute to laying grounds for an epistemology of contemporary dance. Supervisor: Arno Böhler

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The relationship between dance and knowledge has been a topic of debate in the dance community (including artists and scholars alike) during the first decade of this millennium (Gehm, Husemann and Wilcke, 2007). Unfortunately, the discourse has ceased due to the challenges faced while theorizing bodily knowledge that has been considered discursively inaccessible. While in the field of philosophy few attempts have been made to work towards an epistemology of dance (Parviainen, 2002; Risner, 2000),  I contend that this problem remained unsolved.

In my master thesis, I seek to extend the discussion on epistemological aspects of contemporary dance by drawing on theories and recent developments in the field of cognitive science, specifically, from philosophy of mind and neuroscience. Embodied and enactive approaches as well as recent findings in the field of neuroaesthetics have not or have only partially been considered in the field of dance scholarship thus far. My hypothesis is that an encompassing approach can ground the academic discourse with empirical insights and moreover fruitfully re-enliven the discussion on dance and knowledge.

For my endeavor, I will first give a definition of the artform drawing on a poetic approach to contemporary dance (Louppe, 2009). Then I will analyze the discourse on dance and knowledge and the first attempts of working towards an epistemology of contemporary dance to identify the weak and the strong points in that discussion. Finally, I will introduce theories (Johnson, 2007; Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 2016) and research (Jola, Ehrenberg and Reynolds, 2012; Orgs, Caspersen and Haggard, 2016) from subfields of cognitive science with the aim of uncovering confluence of insights from dance research and findings of the respective fields to lay ground for an epistemological framework of contemporary dance.

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