ANTC61 Lecture 3.pdf

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21 Apr 2012
Social and Symbolic Aspects of body
We have an individual body- self (individual) and we also have a social body
The body is a vessel for social meanings (they are marked through their participation in a particular society)
This outward projection makes our social arrangements seem natural (head of sate)
They are also projected outwards as a model of society
Emile Durkheim: "Man is double"
Hertz investigated the privileges accorded socially to the right hand. We can make a biological argument for right- handed utility,
but the privileges are cultural (right- hand man). The left hand supports the right (sinister comes from left).
There are also clean and dirt associations with right and left handedness (i.e. South India)
A left- handed complement in English is an insult. Dexterity comes from Latin for right, sinister comes from left.
There are structural dichotomies where the right- hand is favored and the left hand is not trained.
Robert Hertz: "the pre- eminence of the right hand"
Most bodily habits are not just idiosyncratic --> they're the result of socialization. The training remains implicit after it has ended.
For example, learning to sit on a chair makes it hard to learn how to sit on the knee.
Marcel Mauss: "techniques of the body"
Early theorists
Binding of feet in China, cosmetic surgery, circumcision, tattoo
Perspectives on obesity
White coat --> pure (doctor's status)
Notions of modesty (being stripped of your clothes and getting a gown at a hospital)
Ideal shape and size, surface and coverings of the body
Personal space among middle class Americans
Symbolic skins: extension of body
Clan system --> family
Bodily boundaries: not always coterminous with the physical body (may include clothes, house)
Humoral medicine: hot and cold, 4 humors
Chakras, channels
Permeability of the body to outside influences
Plumbing model of body: body is pipes that you don't want clogged
Shepperd Hughes: may explain widespread alienation --> our bodies are separate from nature
Machine model: my energy is low, I'm burn out, nervous break- down, fuel up; your culture is your OS
Interior structure and function
Beliefs around menstruation
Childhood as a discrete phase
Bodily transitions and life cycle
Beliefs about:
Body image: collective attitudes, beliefs, feelings and fantasies about our bodies, and the way we learn to integrate and organize bodily
experiences. It is both how our conceptual models of the body are elaborated and our experiences as a body are culturally mediated.
It has thorns: painful
Love is a rose
We build our understanding of abstract concepts through the use of concrete metaphors. Symbols and metaphors can be ways of
naturalizing hierarchy, a way of justifying the avrious forms of social and religious calssification that we make: get taken very
We can classify things. Perceived differences between the sexes allow us to construct gender roles.
Maybe Jews didn't eat pork because people were conscientious of the problem. This is a ridiculous, ethnocentric argument.
People didn't perceive the body biologically. Pigs belonged in an ambiguous category that mad people feel uncomfortable.
Biological fallacy: assuming that the material alone is real, while ignoring that this epistemological perspective has a
history; importing the body- mind split --> which can lead to misrepresentation of other perspectives
Circumcision: male circumcision has been a controversial issue. There are arguments around disease, pleasure, etc. that
relate to the material bodies. This may be a way of controlling the part of the body that marks the most anima part or maybe
it helps clarify gender status. It may mark the transition from boyhood to adulthood.
Mary Douglas: Dirt is a matter out of place: We have reactions to things that don't fit in our systems of classification. Medical
materialism, a way of rationlizing past and present cultural practices in terms of scientific models, is a biological fallacy.
Immunity becomes the work of protecting the state --> the use of warfare imagery in the body
Illness is a foreign invader
Emily Martin: metaphors actively shape scientific thinking
Perceiving the body culturally
Lecture 3
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
2:15 PM
ANTC61 Page 1
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