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Lecture 12

ANTHROP 3HI3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Hollerado, Body Politic, Medicalization

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ANTHROP 3HI3 Lecture 12
February 29, 2016
Priscilla Medeiros, 1
Anthropology of the Body
Understanding the body beyond the anatomical and biological
Article by Nancy Schepper-Hughes and Margaret Lock
Body is a social entity affected by culture, religion, etc.
Anthropology of the Body:
The body is viewed primarily as a physical object
Anthropologists understand the body as the subjective experience of life
The human body exists in the social, physical, psychological, conceptual and cultural
Not a specific field of study until the 1970s enhanced after the 1980s
For the sufferer, the body is an entity that defines our identity and the self
Human body is a product of cultural, religious and historical concepts
There are three types of bodies:
o Individual body, social body and the body politic
The Individual Body:
Refers to the unique individual experience of the body and understanding of health
An individual’s experience can be highly variabledependent on cultural and social
The individual body shapes and is shaped by social patterns, and interactions and
acquired very early in life
Medical anthropologists focus on the sufferers experience what it means to be sick
and how it affects the self and identity
The Social Body:
Refers to the body as a natural symbol to think about nature, society, and culture
The human body is always treated as an image of society
No way to consider the body without considering the social experience and the role of
Cultural constructions of the body are useful in developing views of society and
o Young versus old body, sick body versus healthy body, etc.
Culture and society shapes the social body
Making the Body Social:
o The human body has a social and physical reality
§ Shape and size of the body can communicate status and position in
§ Important information about age, profession, membership, etc. in society
§ Body posture, gait, etc. all define the body
o Cultural traits and practices influence ideas about the normative body
o Example: artificial deformation of infant scalps in parts of Peru and binding of
women’s feet in China, etc.
Making the Body Beautiful in Western Societies:
Western societies have culturally and socially defined standards of the body
Example: orthodontics, plastic surgery, and the use of false teeth, eyelashes and
fingernails, etc.
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