March 2008

 Soma: an anarchist experiment 

Jorge Goia[1]


            Why do we usually share only ideas, theory and words at academic meetings? I dare say it might be because we still rely on a traditional division of mind and body. Unfortunately, sitting down and talking require the use of the senses of distance – looking and talking/hearing – we don’t need proximity or contact to participate in a debate or panel. And ironically, we need to feel physically uncomfortable to remember we are a body. Or do something pleasurable.

“Soma – an anarchist therapy”[2] has to be introduced with a taster workshop, otherwise it would be paradoxical.  Were we just to talk about Soma, we would know its history, concepts and methodology, but we would be rationalising and missing the opportunity for an experience-based experiment.

To try translating that experiment in text needs to start with the word: soma comes from the Greek and it means the totality of being in the widest and most complete sense – the body and its extensions, relationships, ideals, dreams, fears – but above all, the body as the source of desire and pain, and adventures through the dynamic between risk and safety. There is no hierarchical separation of mind, body, soul, emotion, feeling, whatever: soma is antonymous to psych in the sense that soma is material, touchable, visible and alive!

Soma sessions were born out of research into unblocking actors’ creativity. Through playful activities, children’s games and drama exercises, participants are challenged to experiment with their bodies, and to develop skills to create a non-hierarchical group dynamic. The games raise different issues that trigger observation of how we respond to situations involving trust, responsibility, sharing, collaboration, confidence, conflict, care, etc.

Soma encourages body experiences that will lead the group to interact, to deal with impasse, to create alternatives when crossing differences, most of the time without any verbal communication. The surprise factor is essential to the methodology. Here is a short description, without all the details, of the workshop done at the conference.

            The pendulum exercise is a sequence of movements and games embodying a personal search for body balance, and investigating issues of risk, pleasure, safety, trust, confidence, fear; all of which can arise when we research the limits of body locomotion in space.            First, participants are invited to discover the maximum locomotion they are able to achieve, without losing their balance, without losing an erect body position.  This body movement in the erect position is the maximum point of freedom in the space of our body, without walking and without losing balance. To enlarge these limits, for our bigger freedom and pleasure, you must take risks. We can only take this risk, we can only enlarge our freedom, if we look for association with other people, who will help us do this while also assuring mutual safety.            The session continues, expanding the numbers of participants involved in the movements, with more possibilities of body locomotion in space. In all these phases, the participants are challenged to work in self-organisation, taking responsibility for the safety and risk-taking of everybody, making clear that is the association/collaboration that brings more freedom and pleasure.

When Roberto Freire[3] created ‘Soma – an anarchist therapy’ in Brazil, in the 70’s, he was looking for therapeutic methodologies that could help people emotionally who were fighting against the military dictatorship. He didn’t rely on his studies in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, but looked at more political engaged works in psychology. 

Drawing on the research of Wilhelm Reich about body and emotions, anti-psychiatry’s focus on communication, the Gestalt approach to self-regulation, and the Brazilian art form of Capoeira Angola, Soma has about 30 sessions, with games, sound and movement exercises to help salvage spontaneity, playfulness, communication, creativity, and awareness of anarchist organization where no one is boss.After the games, we talk about perceptions, feelings, memories or rationalisations; all the emotions lived during the time playing together are the material to work with. Either you can talk about yourself or someone else. We don’t have the intention of finding a ‘truth’ about group participants, but the talk part helps to build a group dynamic based on sincerity, on the communication of perceptions, avoiding interpretation and looking to describe physically these emotions. Roberto Freire says that in the talk part we need to ask more ‘how’ than ‘why’. The ‘how’ helps individualising and it can reveal the originality of each person’s responses. The ‘why’, through interpretation, brings generalisation based in models, standards and stereotypes. This openness is based in anarchist principles of respect for difference and solidarity: whereas the ‘why’ of traditional psychology defines, classifies and judges. Soma seeks for a group dynamic that will encourage a learning process about the politics of everyday life, to observe how micro-social powers work and their effects on human behaviour. But the politics of everyday life does not happen only with arguments, discussions and critiques in the search for a rational idea about life and relationships. We are concerned with the politics of the body, to break down cultural prejudices against the forgotten body.

The process seeks to make the personal political by observing behaviour in the daily life of individuals. Capitalist values such as private property, competition, profit and exploitation are much more than matters of the market and ideology. It is impossible to deny the influence of these values in vital areas of social relations, where feelings (jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity) and situations (competition, betrayal and lies) seem to reproduce on the micro-social level, the authoritarianism of states and corporations. The political starts in the personal, and this is where the mechanisms that maintain social order are born.

 Soma is inspired by anarchism and psychology, two wide fields of subjects separated by a sea of ideas. Linking these, Roberto Freire dared to dream of a utopian bridge between them, and the possibility of fighting against domination with more than words and rationality. The politics of everyday life begins with our private matters; when our feelings and emotions come together with our beliefs and ideology, we raise awareness and bring out the physical reality of our bodies educated in the capitalist culture of fear and security.

Neurosis, paranoia, anxiety, or depression; everything becomes a symptom for the prescriptions of pills, and recipes in self-help books. The speed that ‘scientific’ truths change place confuses anyone that relies only on cartographies such as psychology, neurophysiology, cognition, hormones, genetics. What we believe today as a fact, using science to explain feelings and emotions, might be in doubt tomorrow, but this doesn’t matter to the consumers of therapy. They carry on believing in the authority of the therapist with scientific knowledge, which is another product of the neurosis of capitalism.

Anarchism must not continue to be ignored as a collective practice if we want to break down the absolute power of science. Experiment is not an exclusive right of whoever can control variables, but a metaphor for life. Giving up the pretension of prescription, of establishing a general formula to be applied across the board, expressions of laboratory, experiment and science can gain other meanings and follow other paths. When Soma expresses its political interests, it escapes traditional therapeutic methodologies.

What constitutes someone’s behaviour, character, emotions? The traditional division of Cartesian heritage points to an inside, psychological subject that is beforehand of any material reality. Or to an outside, culture shaping, formatting and defining all nuances of an individual that is almost a blank canvas awaiting the social painting. These are some beliefs moving psychology as modern science and they justify therapeutic techniques and methodologies. But even using different approaches, when reduced to the psychological or to sociological, therapies keep moving in the direction of all their binds with concepts like health, illness, treatments, medicines and healing.

To avoid these conceptual networks, an anarchist therapy needs to use theories as maps, to build methodologies affording instruments, to point to effects which produce results, to confront those who determine objectivity as scientific proofs with certificates, numbers and graphs. We need theoretical tools to blow up the walls of arrogant scientific knowledge, as David Graeber[4] has put it in his writings about anarchism and anthropology.

If in the modern laboratory theories sustain hypothesis, in anarchist research fields they are more indications about how to find paths, avoid abysms, take short cuts, how to stop and enjoy the view. In a Soma group, we take the risks of missing the point. It means looking more to the process than to the results. An experience is a life experiment when it creates new possibilities: one more step, and we are not in the same place anymore.

The big trap in modern science is reductionism: rational explanations that always leave out something of the process. What would happen if we start daring to stop looking for definitive answers? We could have more descriptions about possible interactions, to open questions, not just point out responses, like some contemporary approaches to talking about the body. For Bruno Latour[5], for example, to have a body is to learn to be affected, to learn how to make more ‘articulations’.

The body is the inevitability of human beings; it is built, but not just by determination and definition. It has biological influences, but not like a gene travestied of destiny; it receives cultural education, but not like a moral standard frozen in time and space. When the body is in articulation, it is in transformation. The more articulations we make, the more we are affected, the more we become sensitive to difference, and the more we can refine our senses to perceive, opening possibilities of new engagements, affects and effects.

In a society where the body has become another commodity, another product to be consumed, a rebel body needs to articulate differences to challenge paralysing definitions. When we perceive more contrasts, we make more mediation, and more articulations; we give voice to the body to express doubts; questions, where often one prays for certainty. Soma doesn’t try to define one’s body, the process attempts to keep one’s soma moving.

Another useful study of the body and its articulations, in this case, skills, is the work of Tim Ingold[6]. Ingold imagines “right from the start”, the practitioner of a task in her or his environment, in an active engagement with it which he calls ‘dwelling’. Skills only exist and appear in relationship with either something or someone, in our multiple interactions with and possibilities in the environment. This relational approach breaks from the idea that skills are something one owns, confined inside oneself, and isolated from life experience. The world is a space for experimentation, with our dwelling creating an environment to develop skills, and make possible livelihoods. And only in relationships, can we apply now what was just potentiality before.

            Soma groups are a space for experiences of what was previously only potentiality, where the body games create an environment which affords development of relational skills, if we follow Ingold’s approach. These relational skills produce new ways to perceive and relate, skills to facilitate consensus, to create new forms of non-hierarchical sociability. But these skills are not properties of the participants, they happen in the involvement with the group dynamic. 

This process creates an environment in which the consensus decision making process starts in each participant’s body, mind, emotions and feelings. Such approach breaks with the traditional rational way to develop skills, where the mind is split from the body, the individual removed from its surroundings. Consensus and autonomy are ethical proposals to live with less hierarchy in a group, and they require learning other skills than the ones developed by authoritarian societies. Soma challenges participants to reinvent relationships, creating new forms of socialization and activism.

These are the reasons why I have been doing “Soma – an anarchist experiment”. Changing therapy into experiment, I have turned the sessions away from an emphasis on neurosis (we have something wrong) towards the gaining of skills (we can learn something new). Soma seeks to inspire skills to build horizontal relationships, skills that can transform the way we perceive the world, re-building the body, its dwelling and livelihood. When we give up imperatives of ‘Truth’, ethics comes close to aesthetics, and science flirts with the arts. Soma can be approached both as a live art form and as activism, envisaging a radical participatory, collaborative practice, where one can live singular experiences. With this experimental format, Soma could be a form of political engaged live art that aims to challenge the authoritarian or submissive behaviour that we discover in our daily lives. It encourages perception and awareness of how this behaviour reproduces authoritarian systems, and aims to extend this awareness to other areas of our lives, to resist and to react against hierarchy and social injustice.

Like activism, its practice involves liveness and encourages new ways of working. Like live art, its practice involves a heightened awareness of the body and its response to certain stimuli. Its practice uses the body as a material to build an event, an action, an intervention in the normal world of everyday life. In this sense, Soma would be a kind of training in rebelliousness, proposing an experience that encourages participants to develop trust in their own voice, to develop awareness of their behaviour in a group, to develop trust in others, to breakdown prejudice and barriers, to become articulate about the process of becoming within the group. It can show ways in which honest communication can thrive between participants and enable more anarchism. Play is a way to rediscover the body, just as collaboration helps to rediscover relationships.


[1] Jorge Goia is a Soma facilitator and Capoeira Angola tutor. He has a PhD in Social Psychology – State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and is currently a Research Associate at the Portuguese and Brazilian Department, King’s College, University of London. E-mail:
[2] For further information about the methodology of Soma in English, download Soma vol. 3 from

[3] Roberto Freire is a Brazilian writer with more than 30 books published. His novels, essays and therapy books all express an anarchist approach mixed with the politics of everyday life, believing that pleasure, love, desire and optimism are the most important things to being an activist.

[4] “Fragments of an anarchist anthropology” – Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004.rf

[5] “How to talk about the body” –

[6] “The perception of the environment – essays about livelihood, dwelling and skills” – Routledge 2000.


SOMA – Body Collaboration Workshop

19th and 20th April 2008

11 am to 5 pm

Venue: Limehouse

Please book to get venue details

07758224334 (Goia) –

07947596589 (Arthur) –

Soma is a series of workshops using body games to build a group dynamic. Created in Brazil by Roberto Freire as an anarchist therapy for activists fighting the military dictatorship, Soma focuses in challenging hierarchical relationships, observing the body as material to talk about collaboration, trust, self-esteem, emotions and feelings useful for a life despite capitalism.

Capitalist values of competition, profit, individualism and hierarchy contaminate our belief in the possibilities of freedom. We have all found ourselves giving up on a personal, artistic or work-related dream under pressure to be ‘realistic’ given the political and psychological climate. With so many blatant and latent repressive forces in society, the search for your own freedom is a highly political act.

Soma is an opportunity to study the micro-political and the everyday through our bodies’ response to certain physical exercises. The sessions work out of a framework which incorporates the theories of Wilhelm Reich, anti-psychiatry, Gestalt, the Afro-Brazilian art form of Capoeira Angola and the practice of self-organisation and solidarity. Soma seeks to inspire skills that can transform the way we perceive the world, re-building the body, its dwelling and livelihood.

This workshop aims to start a Soma group which will meet for three more weekends to be scheduled by its participants.

To know more about Soma:


Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday:

*Café and Kids Space* 3-9pm


Welding Workshop 7-9pm

Music Jam From 8pm


Welding Workshop 10-12am

Safer Spaces 1-3pm

Practical Herbal Skillshare 4-6pm

Yoga 6-8pm


Stencil making From 11am

Feminist Singing 8-10pm


Women’s Discussion Group 6.30-8.30pm


Bar 7pm


Yoga 4-6pm

Language Exchange 5-7pm


Weekly Collective Meeting (Open) and Dinner 7pm

Saturday and Sunday:

Women’s Health Workshop Weekend 15th-16th March

DIY Health Weekend
March 15th-16th @ wominspace
4a Corbridge Crescent
London E2 9DS
Tel. 07939381562

We are inviting all womyn for a weekend of workshops and skill-share to learn and openly discuss ways of taking control of our own health.

We are a newly created and organised squatted social centre in which self-identified womyn and trans people can come and take part in workshops, skill-share and discussions. We work collectively to find ways to challenge capitalism and gender oppression, as well as providing a safer space for womyn folk to rest in.

10:30 – 11:30 Wild Herb Walk
A walk around our local area to identify local herbs and gain information on how to use them medicinally.
12 – 1:30 Safer Spaces
A discussion around improving our own communities by examining our social conditioning with the aim of challenging the sexism, racism, homophobia and other oppressions that are inherent in our everyday lives.
2 – 4:00 Negotiating Safer Sex
A workshop on dental dams, clean fingernails and much more!
4 -6 Yoga
Basic session of hatha yoga suitable for beginners.
6:30 – 8:30 Shamanic fire ceremony
The fire ceremony is a give away ceremony and is for releasing that of yourself that no longer serves you. It is a ceremony of transformatin in which we make offerings to the fire. Bring a piece of wood if you can.
8:30 til late: Food share, mutual massage and hanging out space

10 – 12 Indian Head Massage
Instruction to the the techniques of Indian head massage
1-2:30 Homeopathy
An introduction to and deconstruction of homeopathy [for all levels].
12:30 – 2:30 DIY Drop in and Make Your Own Herb Drying Rack

2:30 – 3:30 Sprouting & Vegan Nutrition
2:30 – 3:30 DIY Essences
Instruction and materials provided to help you make your own essences. Please bring an empty bottle.
3:30 – 4:30 DIY Gynecology Part 1
Cervical health – a description about cervical health abnormal spears and cervical self-exams
5 – 6 DIY Gynecology Part 2
Vaginal health – information on treating vaginal infections such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis
6:30 – 7:30 Herstory of Women’s Health Collectives
8:00 Collective Meeting & Meal

See you there!



International Women’s day has marked a series of actions which have dramatically shifted international power across the planet. The revolution began in a phenomenal series of mass mobilised action which has transformed the face of global power, military and economics over the course of a weekend.

This unprecedented shift has been the result of a mass mobilisation of women from all walks of life around the globe. This underground development of women’s communities has gone unnoticed by police and government officials who believed that by closing women’s resource centres and removing services women had lost their only remaining opportunities for solidarity.

Reports suggest that undetected organisations have been in place for months, preparing women to withdraw free labour and care provision on which the global economic and power structures rely. This organised withdrawal of these services on International women’s day coincided with organised military coups worldwide.

Women have seized control of International military power. Rape, sexual violence, and the destruction of the environment has been a long term weapon of war but a major transformation is now underway. Operation Phoenix began at 2am GMT Saturday morning with unprecedented support from working class communities, military families and victims of war united.

Military personal will be re-trained in permaculture and non-violent communication and deployed to support global and community environmental projects. All forms of industrial agriculture and animal farming have been blocked and labourers and workers in these industries have the opportunity to retrain and join the replacement permaculture system. Animals formerly captivated for use in the meat and animal farming industries will be carefully integrated into this environmentally holistic society or released into the wild.

It also appears that Operation Phoenix has infiltrated major drugs companies, and in the last hour leading pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Kline, H.Lundbeck and Janssen Pharmaceuticals have announced their collapse, with further reports of closures coming in.

Free and broad reaching holistic health services have been revealed to replace these pharmaceutical industries which will offer a broad range of healing and emotional support to all people regardless of social status and are based on real choice for those seeking care.

A series of targeted explosions across around the globe have eliminated all stock exchanges and international finance records. There have been minor reports of fatalities with 47 of the leading hedge fund managers reported assassinated. With the financial global super power removed the notion of ‘developing countries’ has been eradicated and the battle for obtaining the earth’s resources at the cost of human and natural life is over.

With the fall of capitalist power structure operation phoenix have announced that all people will be cared for and their needs met. A spokes woman for phoenix said “There are more than enough resources on this planet to support and care for everyone’s needs, the rich/poor divide no-longer exists. Those who are willing to cooperate and work together, offering what skills and level of contribution they can will never be without food shelter or care, there is no room for hierarchy on this planet, we will work with and learn from the earth, by doing this we will all be free. Capitalism has no place in the future of this planet.”

With all this work happening the sound of men, women and children celebrating in the streets and fields can be heard across the planet, There’s a real feeling of hope in the air, an excitement as collectively we welcome tomorrow and the beginning of a new world which places the values of equality, freedom, creativity and nurture above the old ways of control, profit and power.


Mad Chicks Sans Frontières: a wild night of art, music, performance, and film, presented by Mad Chicks, Mad Pride and Creative Routes. LOSING IT stars psychologically and culturally diverse women musicians, writers, artists, film-makers, performers, poets & comediennes. Mad Chicks is about drawing attention to widespread but masked psychiatric and mental distress.  The movement developed from within Mad Pride, a user-led, mental health, civil rights movement, committed to ending discrimination against psychiatric patients, challenging misinformation in relation to mental health and celebrating mad culture. 

Mad Pride did not go cap-in-hand to charities, as that involved cauterising its anti-capitalist attitude. Herein lay its ‘pride’. It was not about being proud of the horrible sides of mental distress, the depression, the dull hours vegetating in psychiatric asylums, forced medication and the contributions to drug company profits. But it did argue that somewhere in the dislocations of madness, the manic highs or the stunning lucid moments of social disconnection, there might be prototypical versions of other lives to be led. Mad Pride deemed that people are deemed ‘mad’ simply because they stick out in a crowd, because they refuse conformist lives.  People experience pain as their pleasures and freedoms conflict with repressive forces in society. 


THE LIBEL OF SANITY I am not an open book. But you can read me in the Braille of crumbling walls, if anyone bothers to feel, to feel. Getting higheris getting deeperpeel the layersthe colour scheme of dreams Empty rooms have their lullabies. Empty rooms have their dreams. My stream of consciousness is chlorinated, sanitised for public use, but look under the surface, dive deeper, get under my skin, come into my dark corners and see how I judge the world. I stand because of these walls, but I can never leave these doors. My head is in the clouds, but I am stuck to the ground, I would like to weigh myself in mid-flight. But I am like a bird trying to fly in set concrete.  The libel of sanity. Can you prove reality exists in a court of law? Where are the witnesses? Where is the evidence? Except the invented evidence. You build the walls and say reality exists within these walls? Take the walls away and what have you got? The jury is out.    Dozzy Angel                Eccentric FishDolly Sen
BLOG: general myspace Watch my films on MySpace – Hear my music WRITER: The World is Full of Laughter – ISBN 0954221818


from Permanent Agriculture Temporary Aggroculture

by Ceri Buck

Breaking down travel undoing travel falling into old habits travel fortifying bad habits travel decomposing travel becoming smaller travel a many-handed now travel km pass travel I pass through them travel they through me travel  food travel climate expression travel I can’t remain the same travel Like compost travel like a journey travel food scraps travel transformation travel lost the egg plot travel ego throw turned into body, turns taken in bodies, ends up in bodies, bodies end as in end. Kundalini, capoeira, diary writing, chemotherapy, hysterectomy, arguments amongst friends, drug injection, sticky nicotine patches, the progestogen only pill, insulin, easily swayed, hot water bottles to drain the pus, GSOH, sugar caves We as plastic people never rot but need at least another heaped tablespoonrun the risk of being declared a witch not here to work but to be worked upon You’re at the bottom of the slide what happens next?run the risk declare yourself a witchhere to shirkand run around in playgroundsMy quick quick snap step sharp end friendGet neither better nor worse as you get older but more yourself junk the e-lite


images by Melanie Clifford

Words by Dolly Sen and Ceri Buck