Body as Text
Since the 1970s, there has been a sociological interest in the experience of being
Sociologists argue that the Body has meaning. The body is arguably the container of
the self. Therefore we often impute characteristics of a persons identity/personality
based upon their appearance.
The Interpretation by others of our bodies can be formative of our identities.
(Remember two concepts discussed earlier, the “Looking Glass Self” and “Self
Our Identities can in turn impact on how we present and represent our bodies. An
example of this would be tattoos. Tattoos often have meaning to the individual, and
are often symbolic of things important to the individual.
Identity politics of the body:
Much of the notion of “standpoint: is derived from embodied existence. Sex, Race,
Sexuality, Age, and Beauty.
Attendant issues of health and illness. Living in “Deviant” Bodies. That is living in a
body that does not operate in a way considered to be normal. For individuals who
have a disability or illness, others impute many characteristics to them. For example
there was a guest lecturer who discussed Deaf culture. Many people assume that
individuals who are deaf cannot do basic things like drive a car. (See attached video
“A few minutes in the life of a sign language interpreter” This video is meant to
humorously depict some of the misconceptions about students who are deaf)
Racialization of the Body
- Bodies are not neutral
- “White” is the dominant image against which others compare globally.
- Eurocentrism: The belief that all things originating in Europe (and then
perpetuating colonization throughout the globe) are superior to those of the
“colonized”. This applies to bodies and especially skin color and facial
- Products such as skin whitening creams are very popular in Asia. According
to the professor there is also the use of umbrellas and hats in the sun to
ensure pale skin. (However, that is also a good way to prevent skin cancer)
Article : KAW “Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian American Women and
- Medical intervention can play a powerful role in racial identity and
negotiation - Asian American women most often request “Double- eyelid” surgery. Also
known in Korea as “getting your eyes done”
- This procedure can cost $2000 USD and up.
- There is a cultural/ historical myth that beauty should be the primary goal of
- In the article the women interviewed said the reason they got the surgery
was so that they would no longer look, “Sleepy, Dull, Passive, or like an
‘Oriental Bookworm’ or someone who doesn’t know how to have fun.” They
wanted to eliminate the negative stereotypes associated with their racial
- Kaw asks, is this “Mutilation or celebration of the body?” or in the words
commonly used in this class “Is it liberating or oppressing?”
Article: Thomson and Keith, “The Blacker the Berry”
- Colorism: Preference and desire for both light skin as well as other attendant
features, eye color, hair texture, broadness of nose, fullness of lips.
- The lighter the skin the greater the feeling of “perceived mastery”
- Quadruple Oppression: Darker skinned African American Women experience
“Quadruple Oppression” through the convergence of social inequalities based
on: Gender, Class, Race and Color
The idea of body as text is that there is a high value placed on the meaning of the
body, its e