Embodied Culture: Discovering the Feeling of Self and Other in Cultural Context

Course description

While the idea of “culture” is an abstraction, the actual experience we have of culture is a very concrete one: it is, in the words of Humberto Maturana “the praxis of living of a coordinated group of people.” Whatever kind of group it is – national, ethnic, professional, etc. – coordination depends on people having a shared experience of everyday life. Like all organisms, human beings experience life via their bodily senses, both literally and, through language, metaphorically. So, to understand the actual experience of culture, we need to tap into that embodiment of our individual and collective sensory experience.

Culture frames experience in a particular way so that we give meaning, attribute value, and feel emotion in resonance with other members of our group(s). As we become more conscious of constructing cultural identity, how aware are we that it is inscribed in our body? By increasing our awareness of cultural embodiment, this course will show how ethnocentrism can be counteracted more effectively and how multicultural identity can be achieved more deliberately. For business applications, it will suggest more productive alternatives to the commonly used teamwork approaches, and for social applications it will suggest more viable alternatives to traditional prejudice reduction efforts.  Overall, the course will activate this long journey of discovery that leads to incorporating intercultural consciousness into one’s praxis of living.

Intended for

A prerequisite for enrolling in the Embodiment course is having completed a course of two days or more offered by Milton Bennett through IDRAcademy or another institution that included the topics of Paradigms and Intercultural Consciousness. Please include which of those courses you took when registering for the Embodiment course). Expected participants are interculturalists, counselors, educators, coaches and people with a multicultural background who wish to deepen their cultural self-awareness as part of developing intercultural consciousness for themselves and facilitating it with others.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn the evolution of the embodiment concept
  • Reflect on the construction of cultural identity and its embodiment
  • Become aware of the daily experience of the body in cultural context
  • Contact embodied resistance to alternative perception
  • Understand how other people may embody culture differently
  • Integrate embodied awareness into intercultural communication
  • Learn strategies for intentionally shifting embodied cultural perception

The course is designed like a workshop in which theoretical contents are blended with sharing of experience, physical exercises  (integration of deep breathing and easily accessible physical movements) and individual reflections. Please wear comfortable clothing and cotton socks. A “dinner in the dark” or other shared activity the first evening will be integral part of the workshop.

Venue & Cost

The course will be held at IDRInstitute office in Milan, Viale Zara 58.  Cost is € 800 (10% discounts for SIETAR, IAIR, FORUMEA, IAIE, and AFS members OR 15% discount for taking also the Intercultural Communication and Meta-Consciousness in the New Paradigm course or the Differentness: a new constructivist approach for Intercultural Education and Training course). Cost will include materials, coffe breaks, lunch each full day and one group dinner. Course begins at 9;30 am on Friday, April 12h and ends at 6:30 pm on Saturday, April 13th (2 full days). Plan on arrival evening before, departure next morning in most cases.


Ida Castiglioni

Dr. Ida Castiglioni is Associate Professor of the Sociology of Cultural Processes in the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Milano-Bicocca. She is president of the graduate program Programming and Management of Social Services and Public Policies (PROGEST), where she also teaches its intercultural communication speciality. Also at UMB, she teaches the course “Cross-cultural Management and Communication” in the graduate program Management and Design of Services (MAGES) in the School of Economics and Statistics, and she was the vice-coordinator of the international Ph.D. program in Sustainable Human Development.  She teaches in several different executive masters, both in Italy and abroad, and she has worked for large corporations and special programs from international agencies in Europe, the U.S., Central and South America, several countries of Central Asia, and Russia.

Dr. Castiglioni graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor and Master in Political Science from the University of Milano and holds a Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland). Her research interests are in the area of the embodiment of culture, the intercultural education of health and social workers, the promotion of cultural sensitivity in complex organizations, and the inclusion of people in different contexts, including incarcerated populations and minority groups in Italy. Her popular text on intercultural development is now in its 14th printing, and recently she has authored several articles on the subjects of intercultural citizenship and sustainability.

In addition to her work at the university, Dr. Castiglioni is a therapist with a Master Degree in Somatic Psychology and a Certificate in Clinical Counseling and she routinely teaches courses in cultural embodiment and embodied ethnocentrism. Her research has focused on intercultural communication in healthcare and in intergroup relations, including incarcerated populations, ethnic minority groups in Italy, and business relations between Western and Central Europeans. She is an adjunct faculty member of the Institute of Somatic Psychology in Milano (IPSO).