COST-2606EL Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Michel Foucault, Social Constructionism, Susan Bordo

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Week 2:
Theorizing the Body
The Body
"Our bodies are the perpetual medium of all that transpires in our existence, from birth until
death" (Burton 2001:3)
The biological, emotional, and social centre for our lives
The body is imbued with meaning
A palette for self-expression
A text for culture
A locus of social control
A social space
An interactional space
Social Construction
A concept or practice that is a creation (both consciously and unconsciously) by a particular
group
Does not prioritize things as having natural qualities, rather it explores how these qualities are
taught, learned and reproduced through social interactions and relations
Social Context
Demello says that we cannot understand bodies outside of the social context that we find them
in
What is social context?
Where you find yourself
The Body
Taking a social constructionist view:
The body must be understood to also include the structural and historical realities that position
some bodies as the norm and all other bodies as Other and/or abnormal
Bodies structure our 'being' in the world
Through Erving Goffman's work, it is made clear that bodies are inseparable from the meanings
and readings that are thrust upon them, whether regarding one's self or a stigmatized Other
Michel Foucault encourages the understanding that the 'lived body' is both a biological unit and
a social actor
Concepts and Theories
The Body
As Bryan S. Turner argues, "I both have and am a body" (1984, 58)
What might this mean?
Can't really separate that we have and live in this body, but also that this is who we are
Turner argues, "in attempting to write about the body, it is impossible to avoid its contradictory
character... We have bodies, but are also, in a specific sense, bodies; our embodiment is a
necessary requirement of our social identification so that it would be ludicrous to say 'I have
arrived and I have brought my body with me'" (1984, 7)
Refer to bodies most often when dead
Consider...
What do you think your body is saying about you?
Actual words (on clothing), advertizing
Student, gender, race, age, winter
In what ways does it matter? Should it matter?
First impressions
How others perceive you
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