Dr. Maria Meindl's dissertation, "Reading Elsa Gindler: Tracing the Legacy of a Somatics Pioneer," is the winner of the Alumni Dissertation Award, 2021–2022. This award was established to celebrate the best dissertation completed by a PhD candidate at the Centre in an academic year.
Maria's doctoral supervisor was Professor Emeritus Stephen Johnson, and her committee members were Professors Jill Carter and Tamara Trojanowska.
We would like to thank the selection committee, comprised of Professors Jill Carter and Elliot Leffler, who made the following comment about Maria's dissertation:
Maria Meindl’s "Reading Elsa Gindler: Tracing the Legacy of a Somatics Pioneer" investigates the life, extant writing and work of Elsa Gindler (1885-1961), mapping out an ever-expanding sphere of influence within which modern and postmodern somatics practitioners have developed and continue to develop holistic movement pedagogies and natural health modalities to improve the lives and/or artistry of those who undertake this training. As Dr. Meindl observes, “[t] study of Gindler has particular resonance” today, as Gindler’s life and practice were subject to the exigencies emerging from a global influenza pandemic, the rise of fascism, and economic depression. In this historic moment, as humans worldwide are navigating a technological revolution and a concerted attack upon foundational ontological assumptions, upon notions of “free will,” and upon bodily sovereignty, Dr. Meindl’s close reading of Elsa Gindler’s life, socio-economic positioning, historical context, and resistant practice offers key insights and remedial strategies to scholars and artists alike across multiple fields of study (i.e., DTPS, Dance Studies, Education, Historiography, Ethics, Hope Studies, and Research Methodologies).
Maria Meindl neither attempts nor claims to craft a definitive account of a long-overlooked influencer of body culture through the 20th and 21st Centuries. Instead, Dr. Meindl offers us her own reading (and translation) of the surviving writings of Gindler, her contemporaries and her students; models an ethical set of practices with which to build respectful and mutually beneficial research partnerships; opens a window onto her own experience of visiting a unique archive that houses Gindler’s theory and praxis (recorded and embodied); and carries us through her own somatic encounters, as a Jew visiting postwar Berlin navigating her own epigenetic trauma while undertaking Gindler’s physical exercises (as remembered, adapted, and taught) by those who carry Gindler’s legacy.
This dissertation, a product of rigorous research and careful reading, comprises an exquisitely crafted narrative tapestry that offers English-speaking audiences their first opportunity to become intimately acquainted with a remarkable (albeit, hitherto unrecognized) somatic practitioner, educational theorist, and social justice warrior.
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Maria Meindl and her committee members on her outstanding achievement!