Dr. Rachel Elliott


My research focus is the phenomenology of groups, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. My areas of specialization are continental philosophy, especially that of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the philosophy of music, and social and political thought. My past research has centred on music as an entry point for understanding the nature of co-perception; I am particularly interested in improvised music and the emergence of new social and aesthetic forms. My future research will build on my study of musical interaction to address themes related to embodiment and inclusion vis-à-vis envisioning futures in times of uncertainty. I also make radio documentaries.

Current Research Initiative:

“Intercorporeality Online: Re-evaluating the Role of Embodiment in Web-Based Acts of Musical Empathy”

BURC New Faculty Research Grant 

Amount: $7,393 

A number of important collective processes—like musical production and understanding, collective intentionality, and empathy—are thought to ineluctably include embodiment. It is unclear, however, whether the embodiment thought to be required of such processes is possible in online contexts. My research aims to define the ways in which processes of embodiment can occur online, so as to bridge a gap between the extant body of literature on embodied cognition and the increasing demand to perform group cognitive activities online, a context in which prima facie, everyday modes of embodiment do not automatically apply. 

My project has two aims:

 1) To re-assess the degree to which in-person, embodied, interaction is required to behold others empathetically; and

 2) To re-consider the characterization of online spaces as disembodied. 

I’m seeking to answer these questions using Merleau-Ponty’s notions of body schema. The body schema is arguably what underlies our empathetic capabilities, and, it is known that musical practices are particularly good at foregrounding body schemas. Therefore, the ways that musicians are attempting to bring the body schema online may serve to illuminate the functioning of embodiment in our online interactions. I will thus be proceeding by collecting raw phenomenological data through original interviews with individuals musicking in online spaces as well as first-hand observations and other archival activities. In seeking to determine the extent to which results of interdisciplinary research on embodied cognition apply in online contexts – like Zoom meetings, distributed musical performances, chats, streaming services, and podcasts – I hope to be able to contribute the insights currently needed by practitioners such as musicians, teachers, arts-based researchers as they increasingly operate online.


Foreword. Sounding the City. by Jen Reimer and Max Stein. Guelph ON: Publication Studios, 2018: 7 – 10.

“Suspending the Habit Body through Immersive Resonance: Hesitation and Constitutive Duet in Jen Reimer and Max Stein’s SiteSpecific Improvisation.” Critical Studies in Improvisation/Études critiques en improvisation. Vol. 12 (2). 2018.

“The Significance of Meaningless Gestures in Derrida and Husserl.Glimpse. Vol. 17. 2016: 20 – 26.

Recent Talks

“Philosophy of the Unconscious? Rationality and Affect in a Post-Trump World,” How Inciteful: Reflections on Trump’s Interdisciplinary Impacts on Academia, Brandon University Politics Society (January 26, 2021)

“Indirect Gatherings and Distributed Collaborations: Phenomenological Perspectives on Music and Collectivity,” Out of Bounds Series, Department of Music, Brandon University (September 29, 2020)

“The Futurity of the ‘We’: A Merleau-Pontian Account of Group Temporality and Improvised Music,” British Society for Phenomenology. (University of Exeter, Forthcoming September 3-5, 2020)

“Re-Inventing Friendship for the Contemporary World,” with Ilknur Ozalli, Department of Philosophy, Brandon University, March 13, 2020 (Cancelled due to Covid-19)

“Togetherness in the Future,” Dimensions of Togetherness: Oppression and Transformation in Space and Time and Corporeality, CSWIP, Canadian Philosophical Association. (UQÀM, June 4, 2018)

“Risking the Habit Body through Immersive Resonance: Hesitation and Constitutive Duet,” Duquesne Women in Philosophy Conference (Duquesne University, April 7, 2018).

“Transforming the Habit body: Site-Specific Improvisations in Urban and Virtual Environments,” Still Listening: A Conference in Memory of Pauline Oliveros (McGill University, June 1 3, 2017).

“Trembling in Time: Music as Subjectivity in Hegel’s Aesthetics,Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture (University of Calgary, May 31June 2, 2016).

“Improvising on Air: Discursive Improvisation and the Listening Audience,” International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (University of Guelph, April 8, 2016).

“Ownness, Body, and Affect in Plato’s Republic,Ancient Philosophy Society (University of Kentucky & Transylvania University, April 9-12, 2015)


Brandon University, Brandon Manitoba

70:266 Environmental Ethics (2021)

70:373 Philosophical Perspectives on Music (2021)

70:152 The Meaning of Life (2021)

70 267 Ethics (2020)

70 273 History of Continental (2020)

70:269 Continental Rationalists (2020)

70:265 Political Philosophy (2020)

George Brown College, Toronto Ontario

COMM 1007, College English (2019)

COMM 1003, English Skills (2018)

University of Guelph, Guelph Ontario

PHIL 3050, Philosophy of Art (2016)

Dawson College, Montréal Québec

345-BXH-DW, Environmental Ethics (2012)

345-101-MQ, Knowledge and Community (2009 & 2011)

345-102-MQ, Listening to the World (2010) 

345-BXH-DW, Environmental Ethics (2009 & 2010)

345-101-MQ Introduction to Philosophy (2008)

345-102-MQ, Faith and Reason (2008)

345-BXH-DW, Consciousness and Oppression (2008)

Radio Documentaries