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. Borrowing a concept from Humberto Maturana, I have defined culture as “the praxis of living of a coordinated group of people.” Coordination within groups depends on people having a shared experience of everyday life in a particular context, such as a national, ethnic, or professional one. Human beings live life through their senses, both literally and metaphorically. Thus, our individual and collective embodied experience is a key concept for understanding culture. Culture frames the perceived experience of the senses in a particular way so that we give meaning, attribute value and feel emotion in resonance with groups of affiliation. This raises the issue of the construction of our cultural identity: how aware are we of the process, how conscious are we of the fact that it is inscribed in our body? Integrating multicultural identity means dealing with the dynamics of this process and framing them intentionally. This course will activate this long journey of discovery that leads to incorporating intercultural competence into one’s praxis of living.


Target Group

The course is intended for participants who have attended the IDRAcademy foundation course “Guiding the Development of Intercultural Consciousness In Training and Education” or an equivalent course (to be negotiated with IDRInstitute directors before enrollment).
Expected participants are interculturalists, counselors, educators, coaches and people with a multicultural background who wish to deepen their embodied cultural self-awareness to use it in support situations and for their own enhancement of intercultural competence.


Objectives of the course:

  • Learning the evolution of the embodiment concept
  • Reflecting on the construction of cultural identity and its embodiment
  • Becoming culturally aware of the daily experience of the body
  • Contacting resistance to alternative perception
  • Understanding other people’s embodiment of culture
  • Integrating body’s awareness into communication with different cultures (people and contexts)
  • Learning strategies for intentionally shifting perceptual cultural framing

The course is designed like a workshop in which theoretical contents are blended with sharing of experience, physical exercises (integration of deep breathing and easy access physical movements) and individual reflections. This will be the basis for developing cultural self awareness and ability to observe oneself in working and relational contexts.


Ida CastiglioniDr. 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).