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I have two articles one of them 13 pages and other one is around 14 and half pages. I need to write a reflection in two separate papers each one 1 page or so long for each article . MLA format and the last paragraph should include thoughts and reflections to the article 


Rethinking Anthropological Studies of the Body: Manas and Bodham in Kerala

ABSTRACT Anthropological research that focuses on the body has been prolific in the last two decades. This trend has provided an

important reorientation away from a tendency to focus on mental representations of experience and has allowed for a more holistic

understanding of the human condition. However, this article argues that much research on the body has created a false dichotomy:

Westerners are seen as living in a world of mentalistic bias and mind-body dualism while all others are understood as more grounded

in their bodies. Ethnographic research conducted among people suffering psychopathology and possession in Kerala, India, challenges

these assumptions about the embodied Other by showing that these patients experience a continuum of states of being that includes

the body, mind, consciousness, and self/soul. This approach demonstrates how an examination of a local culturally and historically

formed phenomenological orientation can provide a useful alternative to the tendency to discover embodied peoples. [Keywords:

body, embodiment, India, Kerala]

THE MOVEMENT IN ANTHROPOLOGY of examin-ing bodily and lived experience, which started in the 1980s and continues today, is an important corrective to earlier studies that understood life experience primarily in mentalistic or representational terms and through the as- sumptions of Western mind-body dualism. This trend has influenced many areas of inquiry ranging from ethnogra- phy to studies of language, prehistory, and material cul- ture. However, this analytic corrective often inappropri- ately generalizes about non-Western people, suggesting they ground experience in the body and lack an orienta- tion that distinguishes mind from body.

This article contests such tendencies by presenting a phenomenology of people in Kerala, South India, who make distinctions between body, mind, consciousness, and other states of being. I focus specifically on "mental" patients and spirit-possessed people in Kerala who reveal many mentalistic, and other nontangible, modes of expe- rience, which actually represent more levels of ratification away from the body than are contained in Western mind-body dualism. These popular expressions of illness in Kerala, as I show, are informed by exegeses found in In- dian philosophy of fdrlram (body), manas (mind), bodham (consciousness) and atman (true self/soul), focal points that lie along a continuum that moves from the body to the less tangible parts of the person. A combination of selec- tions from Indian philosophy and excerpts from inform- ant interviews reveals a phenomenology in Kerala that

does not replicate Western mind-body dualism but in- cludes the body and several increasingly nonphysical states culminating in the formless higher self, or atman. Finally, I will contextualize this local phenomenology and consider why Kerala may be unique.


It would not be hard to convince the reader that in cul- tural anthropology as well as in linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and disciplines such as cultural studies, wo- men's studies, and comparative literature, studies of the body and embodiment have been prolific in the last dec- ade. It is difficult to quantify the amount of published work in this area, but as an indicator of the popularity of these topics a search of Dissertation Abstracts Online on the subjects anthropology and body or embodiment reveals about seventy-five dissertations every year relating to these topics in the 1990s, forty or so in the 1980s, and al- most none in the 1970s and earlier (Online Computer Li- brary Center, Inc. 2001; see Csordas 1999 and Lock 1993 for comprehensive reviews of anthropological studies of the body and embodiment).

It could be argued that a mentalistic perspective pre- dominated in anthropology until some anthropologists in the mid-1980s started questioning how people also experi- ence the world and express themselves through the body, emotion, and aesthetic realms. Even studies of health and ill- ness, where we might expect the body to merit considerable


1124 American Anthropologist • Vol. 104, No. 4 • December 2002

attention, were interested mainly in views of illness and mental models of health and disease well into the 1980s (e.g., Kleinman 1980; Marsella and White 1982).

Of course, influential anthropological work on the body can be found prior to this time, most notably Marcel Mauss's essay "Les techniques du corp" (Techniques of the body) (1950), which examines how people are encultu- rated through their bodies, and Mary Douglas's Natural Symbols (1970), which reveals how the body is used as a metaphor that helps people make sense of the world and their society. Anthropological studies of the body were also informed by Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish (1977) and his History of Sexuality series (1978-86), which reveal how people are trained to become modern subjects through the body.

In 1987, Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock's "The Mindful Body" successfully appealed to anthropolo- gists to transcend Western mind-body dualism and exam- ine alternative cultural conceptions of the body. Around the same time, linguists, philosophers, and other scholars also began to seriously scrutinize the body. Expanding on themes in George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By (1980), Johnson's The Body in the Mind (1987), for example, examined how the condition of being in a body shapes our perception and experience of the world. Linguistic anthropologists, meanwhile, revealed how non- linguistic, kinesic communication occurred through the body and suggested that linguistic context should include the body and space (Duranti 1992; Farnell 1999:351-352). Also beginning in the late 1980s, a number of studies ex- amined women's experiences of objectifications of the fe- male body, a focus that spanned many disciplines includ- ing anthropology (Martin 1987), literature (Gilbert 1997), and philosophy and was taken up by different formula- tions of poststructural theory (Bordo 1993; Butler 1993).

Although these studies tended to focus on the body as an object of analysis, others began to foreshadow the para- digm of embodiment that would emerge by the early 1990s. This paradigm took the experience of being in a body as its starting point. Some anthropologists turned to an anal- ysis of the senses (Roseman 1991; Stoller 1989), foi exam- ple, while others attempted to define an experiential an- thropology (Jackson 1989; Turner and Bruner 1986; Wikan 1991). Sensory and experiential anthropology—along with studies of the body and emotion—signaled an awareness of the aesthetic, tactile, and visceral realms of experience.

The move to a focus on embodiment in anthropology crystallized with the publication of Thomas Csordas's "Em- bodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology" (1990). Influ- enced by work in phenomenology by Merleau-Ponty and Bourdieu, Csordas distinguished between the anthropol- ogy of the body, which considers the body as an external object of analysis and that tends to focus on concepts of the body or bodily metaphors, and studies of embodi- ment, which consider the actual, lived experience of being in the body or "being in the world" (1999). This article, and Csordas's other work (1990, 1993, 1994a), launched a

variety of studies centered on embodiment, although this concept was conceptualized in very different ways within these studies. For Csordas (as well as Merleau-Poi|ty and some researchers in linguistics and philosophy, such as Johnson 1987 and Lakoff and Johnson 1999), embodi- ment is an existential and universal human condition—all people experience the world from the perspective of being in a body. Soon a number of cultural anthropologists ap- plied various interpretations of embodiment to ethno- graphic contexts (e.g., Jenkins and Valiente 1994; Levi 1999; Low 1994; Pandolfi 1993; Scheper-Hughes 1992); this period also saw the focus on the body and the para- digm of embodiment find their way into research in ar- chaeology Oensen 2000; Rixecker 2000; Shanks 1995) and linguistic anthropology (Chidester 1996; Farnell 1999), al- though not all researchers who focus on embodiment up- hold the distinction Csordas made between "the body" and "embodiment": Many use the term embodiment merely to indicate a focus on the body.


While turning attention to the body, anthropologists have often created a picture of the world wherein peoples who are labeled "non-Western" or "traditional" are understood as either more grounded in their bodies or as experiencing the world with a more subtle awareness of mind-body in- terconnection than the Western subject who is depicted as naively unaware of the embodied nature of his (the West- ern woman is supposedly akin to the non-Western subject in her awareness of her body) own experience. Frustrated by what they see as biomedicine's need to classify all suf- fering as "either wholly organic or wholly psychological in origin," Scheper-Hughes and Lock (1987:9) propose that medical anthropology try to transcend the paradigm of mind-body dualism. Although they do not claim that all non-Western cultures locate experience in the body or are more holistic, they treat their material as if one can gener- alize in this way. For example, their article contains fre- quent contrasts such as: "Non-Western and nonindustrial- ized people are 'called upon to think the world with their bodies,' " yet "by contrast, we [Westerners] live in a world in which the human shape of things . . . is in retreat" (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987:23). In a section called "Representations of Holism in Non-Western Epistemolo- gies," they contrast the balance, holism, and monism of Chinese, Buddhist, and Islamic cosmologies with the Western emphasis on exclusion, tension, and contradic- tion (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987:12-13).

Andrew Strathern's Body Thoughts (1996), which is de- voted entirely to the topic of orientations to the body in the West and in other cultures, also contains generalizing characterizations such as when he speaks of "many peo- ples around the world . . . in whose own cultural concepts emotion and reason are closely linked" (1996:8)—where emotion and reason are considered manifestations of body and mind. After discussing an article that refers to the

Halliburton • Rethinking Anthropological Studies of the Body 1125

prioritizing of knowledge over emotion in European cul- tures, Strathern asserts, "Yet in other cultures this kind of hierarchical ranking of knowledge versus emotion does not exist" (1996:151). "Many peoples" and "other cul- tures" are not the same as saying "all non-Western cul- tures," but in this book, as in many others, the narrative contains an implicit dichotomy between Western culture and something else, some generalized Other who is more aware of his or her embodied nature. Ethnographers, too, have tended to describe non-Western people as not distin- guishing mind from body: "Consciousness . . . cannot be disembodied" and sorcery is always "body seeking" in Sri Lanka, according to Kapferer (1997:44), and "the Yaka [of Zaire] perceive of the body as the pivotal point from which the subject gradually develops a sense of identity," according to Rene Devisch (1993:139).

Further evidence of the tendency to see non-Western cultures as more body oriented is revealed by a closer look at the numerous anthropological dissertations on the top- ics of body and embodiment referred to earlier. These dis- sertations are overwhelmingly studies of non-Western peoples, and when research on the body is carried out in the United States, it tends to focus on non-Western immi- grant groups (Online Computer Library Center, Inc. 2001). When one also considers that much research on the body in Western culture outside of anthropology focuses on women (e.g., Bordo 1993; Gilbert 1997) and oppressed ethnic groups (Fishbum 1997), and that some have associ- ated expressing suffering through the body with low so- cioeconomic position (Kleinman 1986; Scheper-Hughes 1992), one gets the impression that—either because of fact ox through anthropological imagination—it is people who have less access to power who locate experience in the body or transcend mind-body dualism. Indeed, Kleinman explained in the late 1980s: "The research literature indi- cates that depression and most other mental illnesses, es- pecially in non-Western societies and among rural, ethnic and lower-class groups in the West, are associated prepon- derantly with physical complaints" (1986:52). Contrary to these studies, the examples of nonbodily modes of experi- ence from Kerala given below cut across class, gender, and religious lines (an important dimension of stratification in India), as do some exceptions in the anthropological lit- erature such as Mascia-Lees and Sharpe (1992) and Csor- das (1994b), who examine embodiment among nonmargi- nal, European American groups.


Having leaned on the term phenomenology at several points already, I should confess that this term is hard to wield. There is no succinct or agreed-on definition of phenome- nology. It is associated with the philosophy of Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, among other West- ern thinkers, and with diverse movements within Bud- dhist, Japanese, Indian, and other cultures' philosophies. In its broadest sense, phenomenology is concerned with

the nature of experience and knowledge, and the relation between these two, as well as the condition of being in and experiencing the world. Work in anthropology con- cerned with ways of feeling and perceiving the world, however, has tended to focus on the sensate world and the experience of being in a body (Csordas 1994a; Desjarlais 1992; Weiner 1997). This focus narrows the potential a phenomenological approach has for anthropological un- derstanding, one that Mauss recognized years ago when he proposed a "triple point de vue, celui de Thomme total' " (triple point of view, that of "the whole person") that takes into account the psychological, social, and tangible elements of being in a body (1950:369). Mauss's emphasis was on understanding the whole person and, thus, his study of the techniques of the body was also a study of "le mode de vie" (the mode of living/way of life), or "le modus." This term, somewhat like his habitus, refers to the intersec- tion of body techniques, a way of life, psychology, and other influences constituting a space and a mode in which one lives (1950:375).

Several important contemporary works follow this lead. For example, Csordas's original concept of embodi- ment is also one of phenomenological contingency: It draws attention to one's way of being-in-the-world and not just toward the body. Similarly, Robert Desjarlais (1997) and Lawrence Cohen (1998) offer examples of eth- nographies that engage the body along with other modes of experience without overindulging the body. Desjarlais's ethnography of a homeless community in Boston main- tains a multiple perspective looking at the selfhood, bod- ies, and experiences of homeless people and defining ex- perience as "a historically and culturally constituted process predicated on certain ways of being in the world" (1997:13). Cohen (1998) examines the (aging) body in In- dia, without claiming that India is a place that is more bodily than the West, and considers the body along with other parts of the person as they are intersected by dis- courses about aging, power, modernity, and other issues. Michael Jackson's (1989, 1996) phenomenological anthro- pology is also interested in a broader topic than the body. Jackson emphasizes the importance of deprivileging the- ory and attempts, with deference to his subjects' perspec- tives, to represent lived experience as it is. Jackson's effort is similar to the one advocating experience-near anthro- pology (Bruner 1986; Geertz 1986; Wikan 1991).

Those who focus on social suffering also offer the po- tential for an anthropology that does not overindulge the body (Kleinman 1995; Kleinman et al. 1997). This orienta- tion is, of course, limited to the painful and pathological, but "suffering" is an analytic and experiential category that can account for all parts of the person.

Each of these works informs my own understanding of phenomenology. I use phenomenology to refer to how one experiences—at the level of consciousness, mind, and body—being in, and living in, the word. Because every culture has its own way of assembling and prioritizing the modes of experience through which people interact with

1126 American Anthropologist • Vol. 104, No. 4 • December 2002

the world (though these phenomenologies may also de- scribe truths of human experience that transcend locality, while also being constituted by translocal influences), I suggest that there are multiple phenomenologies and, fol- lowing Desjarlais, understand that phenomeonologies are historically and culturally constructed. Thus, my approach differs from some of the authors who have laid the foun- dation for phenomenological studies in anthropology in important ways. For example, in proposing a pheno- menological, rather than intellectualist, perspective, Jack- son appears to assume that there is a phenomenology. By contrast, I argue for the need in anthropology to uncover local phenomenologies, which I understand as constituted by both local analytic theories of experience and lived ex- perience itself and assume these influence one another to some degree. While anthropologists such as Jackson have turned to Husserl, Heidegger, and Dewey for theories of phenomenology, I suggest looking for other cultures' equivalents of Husserl, Heidegger, and Dewey, such as Sankara, Prasatapada, and Aurobindo in India. Thus, in discussing Indian and Kerala phenomenology, I turn to lo- cal theoretical explanations of experience and to popular everyday ways of experiencing, which are often informed by these elite theories. Together these constitute a local phenomenology.


Indian philosophy is saturated with discussions of the self and its many layers—the self and mind, the self and con- sciousness, the material and the transcendent—and the nature of experience. This section presents the work of a few key figures to reveal the genealogies of phenomeno- logical terms used in contemporary speech in Kerala. In turning to Indian philosophy, I may appear to be invoking an elite discourse that is not necessarily incorporated into popular thought and practice. However, my interviews with informants reveal that some assumptions in Indian philosophy also exist in popular discourse, and as I discuss in the final section of this article, this popular consump- tion of elite philosophy may be what makes Kerala unique. In addition, using philosophers such as Sankara to dem- onstrate a cultural phenomenology is an attempt to pre- sent an account that is comparable to key works in the an- thropology of the body and embodiment that examine philosophers, such as Descartes, to characterize the Western mind-body dichotomy (Csordas 1994a; Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987; Strathern 1996:41-62). Such an approach also reminds us that it is not only Western philosophers that have grappled with issues of phenomenology and ex- perience.

Defining and describing atman is the concern of much Indian philosophical writing. Usually translated into Eng- lish as self ox soul, atman refers to the higher self that is to- tally immaterial and eternal and often wrongly, according to philosophers, identified with the mind or other attrib-

utes. Atman is also a term that some people I interviewed used to refer to their true or essential self.

Identifying the nature of atman was a major fqcus of a philosopher known as Sankara. Born in the 8th century in what is now central Kerala, Sankara is known throughout India for his Advaita Vedanta philosophy, which aimed to reveal that the true self, atman, is the same as Brahman or god/the absolute divinity. Much of Sankara's writing is de- voted to revealing phenomena that are wrongly attributed to atman and must be recognized as such to realize this true self. Thinking that one's self is the body or that one perceives reality though the senses is misleading according to Sankara. Even parts of the person that are not quite of the body, such as the mind, are not part of one's true iden- tity, one's atman. Sankara presents a scale of decreasing physicality and decreasing tangibility as one goes from what are false attributes to what is true and valued: from body to senses to mind to intellect to atman.

In his treatise UpadeSa Sdhasrl, Sankara narrates in the voice of atman and describes the nature of this self: "Ever free, ever pure, changeless, immovable, immortal, imper- ishable and bodiless I have no knowledge or ignorance in Me who am of the nature of the Light of Pure Conscious- ness only" (Sankaracharya 1973:121, emphasis added). As we will see, people suffering illness in Kerala are very con- cerned about their bodham or "consciousness."

Sankara also distinguishes among intellect, memory, mind, and knowledge, concepts that might be considered contained within the mind in Western epistemologies. For example, he holds that "the peculiar characteristic of the mind is reflection and that of the intellect is determina- tion" (Sankaracharya 1973:164). This distinction is seen in the various terms used by informants (e.g., bodham and buddhi) below that translate as consciousness or intellect and are separate from the mind (manas). Sankara is known throughout Kerala and India. Nowadays, the popular relig- ious leader Sai Baba, whose photo can be seen in homes and businesses around Kerala and other parts of India, promotes Sankara's philosophy that the true self is the same as the divine.

Vaigesika, which is one of several philosophies that epistemologically inform ayurvedic medicine, states a clear phenomenological division of labor similar to what is seen in Sankara's philosophy. In a discussion of the nature of atman, a 4th-century VaiSesika text by PraSastapada says:

In the cognitions of sound, etc., also we infer a "cogniser" {the witness/the self}. This character cannot belong to the body, or to the sense organs, or to the mind; because all these are unintelligent or unconscious. Consciousness can- not belong to the body, as it is a material product, like the jar; and also as no consciousness is found in dead bodies.

Nor can consciousness belong to the sense-organs; {. . . } Nor can it belong to the mind; because if the mind be re-

garded as functioning independently of the other organs, then we would have perception and remembrance simul- taneously presenting themselves (and if the mind be re- garded as functioning through the other organs, then it would not be the same as atma [dtman [self]); and also be- cause the mind itself is a mere instrument.

Halliburton • Rethinking Anthropological Studies of the Body 1127

And thus the only thing to which consciousness could belong is the self, which thus is cognised by this con- sciousness. [Radhakrishnan and Moore 1957:40s]1

In this passage, PraSastapada draws distinctions between atman, consciousness, mind, and body similar to those made by Sankara. These distinctions can also be seen in Nyaya philosophy, which is contemporary with VaiSesika, and in the writings of the 20th-century thinker, Sri Aurobindo CRadhakrishnan and Moore 1957:356-385, 602-603).

Finally, what is probably the best known of classic Hindu texts, the Bhagavad Gita, is saturated with teachings about how one transcends the body and the senses. The divinity Krishna, in his conversation with the human Ar- juna, which constitutes the entire text of the Gita, asserts that atman is eternal and transcends the body:

Know this Atman Unborn, undying, . . . How can It die The death of the body? . . . Worn-out bodies Are shed by the dweller Within the body. [The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita 1944:37]

Throughout this work, the importance of transcending the body is repeated by Krishna:

Once more I shall teach you That uttermost wisdom: The sages who found it Were all made perfect, Escaping the bonds of the body. [The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita 1944:106]

The Gita is popularly disseminated in Kerala and around India more broadly. Many Hindu households dis- play a picture of Krishna and Arjuna in Arjuna's chariot and a quote from the Gita. A large mural of Krishna and Arjuna even dominates the waiting room of a well-known clinical psychologist in Kerala, and the Gita is dramatized on television and in other media.

A division of phenomenological experience similar to that described in these philosophical excerpts exists in the following testimony from informants. Specifically, we will see that Sanskritic terminology from the philosophical texts excerpted above, such as atman, bodham, and manas, and an emphasis on consciousness, exist in contemporary dis- course in Kerala showing attention to the rarification of nontangible parts of the person.


Kerala is home to 30 million people in southern India. This green and lush coastal state is well-known among re- searchers who study development for its high—around 90 percent—literacy, high life expectancy, low infant mortal- ity, and other impressive quality-of-life indicators. Some attribute these achievements to policies of Kerala's com- munist government and grassroots social movements (e.g., Franke and Chasin 1994; Heller 1999; Namboodiri- pad 1984). Kerala has an excellent health care system and

the highest number of biomedical (known in India as "al- lopathic") doctors and hospital beds per capita in India (Franke and Chasin 1994; Panikar and Soman 1984). The state is also reputed for its practitioners and facilities of ayurvedic medicine, the most widely used indigenous medical system of South Asia. Coexisting with its impres- sive social achievements, Kerala also has serious problems of unemployment (Mathew 1997) and an extremely high suicide rate (Halliburton 1998). The Dravidian language Malayalam is spoken throughout the state, and the term Malayali is used to refer to the people and culture of Kerala.

The research presented in this article is based on inter- views with 100 patients and over twenty healers plus ob- servations of healing sessions at ayurvedic and biomedical psychiatric hospitals and religious healing centers. The re- ligious centers included a Muslim mosque, a Hindu tem- ple, and a Christian church, all of which are renowned for treating mentally ill or spirit-possessed people.2 Research was conducted in 1997 with the assistance of three Malayali graduate students and aspiring therapists, Kavitha N. S., T. R. Bijumohan ("Biju"), and Benny Varghese. Interviews with people suffering illnesses focused on their illness nar- ratives, past attempts at therapy seeking, current views of their problems, and plans for the future.

It should be noted that in the interviews that follow, a relative of the person who is ill is often the speaker. This is a fundamental feature of Kerala culture that has also been observed in other parts of India in research on the socio- centric or dividual person (e.g., Marriott 1976; Shweder 1991; Vaidyanathan 1989). Patients normally visited a healing center accompanied by one or several relatives ox friends who, at most times, spoke on their behalf to heal- ers. Patients and their families also presented themselves in this same manner to my assistants and myself in inter- views. This pattern of interaction exists not only in the world of health and healing but also in many realms of life in Kerala, such as negotiating a marriage or employment. Sociocentric and egocentric are not, however, absolute or mutually exclusive categories. Katherine P. Ewing (1991) has shown how intrapsychic individualism coexists with interpersonal engagement in Pakistan, and Adrie Kusserow (1999) has revealed realms of sociocentrism in U.S. society. Likewise, there are contexts in which people in Kerala are individualistic, such as in Hindu religious practices. Hope- fully, the mentalistic Westerner/body-conscious non- Westerner dichotomy will discover the same nuance that these critiques of the egocentric/sociocentric dichotomy have revealed.3


Inspired and intrigued by the anthropological focus on the body, I hoped to find in Kerala confirmation of unique constellations of somatic idioms, forms of expression that transcended mind-body dualism in the local culture and in the forms of therapy I was examining, but I was frus- trated by my informants' tendency to talk about their

1128 American Anthropologist • Vol. 104, No. 4 • December 2002

problems in mentalistic and other nontangible terms. I tried retooling some of my questions and advising my re- search assistants, who had some training in psychology, to veer away from questions that I thought might contain as- sumptions of …



Reading Reflections

Assigned readings have been posted to the course website. Complete the readings before the class session for which they are listed, and come to class prepared to discuss them.

For FIVE days during the quarter, submit a written reflection to the weekly Dropbox before the start of the lecture for that day. Reflections should be at least 250 words and may respond to one or several of the assigned readings. Longer is fine. These reflections should not simply summarize the readings, but should offer critical comments and points for discussion.

Assignments receiving full points will meet the following criteria:

· Show that you understand the concepts and arguments presented in the assigned reading. Leave no doubt that you have completed a close reading of the text and use quotes, details, or evidence to support your points.

· Be thoughtful, clear, and well-argued. You will NOT be graded on your opinion. It is ok to disagree with the article’s author, your fellow students and with the professor. However, your posts should not simply state your opinions, but should provide evidence and logical arguments to support your view.

· Go beyond the obvious; make connections among the class topic, readings, and your experiences. Your post should not simply summarize the assigned reading. The best posts include new, complex ideas and perspectives.

· Use standard academic English (i.e., complete sentences, capitalization, and conventional spellings). Please remember to read over your posts before your submit them to correct any errors.

DEADLINES: Reflections are due before class on the day the reading was assigned. For example, if a reading is listed for Monday, September 23, you should submit your reflection on that reading before class on September 23.