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Body, Identity, Self and Other.

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Presentation on theme: "Body, Identity, Self and Other."— Presentation transcript:

1 Body, Identity, Self and Other.
Lecture 7 Body, Identity, Self and Other.

2 Key Issues. Social or biological bodies?
Norbert Elias- The civilised body. Foucault’s docile body. Mikhail Bakhtin- The grotesque body. Individual and social body. Construction of bodily boundaries. Biophobia in the social sciences

3 The Absence of the Body in Sociology
'Sociology of the Body' a comparatively new area. Sociologists traditionally concerned with social structures, institutions, forms and patterns of interaction, ideologies, cultural formations- more recently things like discourse and identity. Embodiment largely absent from these analyses. Impossible to study social phenomena without including embodiment as a part of ones analysis. Identity and subjectivity, health, gender, childhood, ageing, violence and conflict, work, race and ethnicity all linked to corporeality. Identity construction and subjectivity something that happens around the body.

4 The Socially Constructed Body.
Body the primary focus and locus of power in modern societies. Made explicit in 'Discipline & Punish' (1991) Foucault Erving Goffman and Mary Douglas all aligned with a social constructionist approach to embodiment. From this perspective there is no pre-social self/ body/ identity/ subjectivity. The materiality of the body ignored. Bodies inscribed with meaning through culture.

5 What is Social Constructionism?
An approach that emphasises the ways in which our social meanings, categories, values attitudes and behaviours are socially produced rather than naturally given by our biological inheritance. Now I would shy from placing Foucault firmly within this tradition but I'll return to that shortly. Explains every area of social life by reference to learned rather than innate behaviours. Gender, illness, identity, sexuality all products of how social actors think, behave and feel about things on the basis of the rules of social interaction

6 Four main strands to social constructionism. 1
A critical stance towards taken for granted knowledge and concepts. All of our concepts must be subjected to critical analysis. Categories of male/ female; good/ bad; black/ white; young/ old, are all relative and context dependant. They mean different things to different people at different times. Conceptual opposites above are not natural opposites They have just been positioned that way in a system of meaning. None of our categories are as hardedged as we think. Even death is pronounced different ways in different cultures. The way we define immoral behaviour, a healthy body and beauty are all changeable. We cannot take any of these concepts for granted.

7 Four main strands to social constructionism. 2
Historical and Cultural Specificity. There are no universal rules of social interaction. There are no universally true concepts. All conceptual categories are particular to time, space and place. Concepts change over time. Concepts not shared between cultures. Universal rules do not exist. Beauty in UK different from Borneo. Good manners in 18th C England different form contemporary manners.

8 Four main strands to social constructionism. 3
Knowledge is sustained by social processes. Social processes shape the kinds of knowledge that is produced. Even scientific knowledge is socially constructed. Funding considerations, political and economic constraints, power relations, moral frameworks all influence the paradigms of scientific enquiry and therefore knowledge. There are social processes involved in the production of knowledge.

9 Four main strands to social constructionism.4
Knowledge and social action go together. How you think about something shapes how you act towards it and how you act shapes the way you think. E.g. Drug addiction may be treated differently depending on whether we view it as a medical problem, a criminal act or a psychological disorder. How we think about the world shapes how we deal with it.

10 These four features can be reduced to two key theoretical strands.
Anti-realism. Our concepts do not always reflect something 'real'. Anti-essentialism. There is no singlular essence for any concept. Apparently essential/ real features of social phenomena are a product of social actors and how they think/ feel and react towards things.

11 Berger and Luckman (1966) The social construction of reality
Our sense of what is real is not out there to be discovered it is entirely socially constructed. Provided social scientists with a fantastic analytical tool for examining social meanings and taken for granted assumptions. A powerful critique of Durkheimian notions of 'Social Facts'. Particularly problematic in relation to embodiment What is the body that the social acts upon if it is not a material thing?

12 The Body and the Sociological Imagination
'Sociology of the Body' becoming established part of the 'sociological imagination'. Sociologists primarily concerned with the way that social processes construct and mould the body. The body is first and foremost a social thing.

13 Foucault and the Body. For Foucault he 'mad' a social construction of modernity. Category of 'madness' had to be invented and invested with a 'regime of truth' Madness- particular behavioural 'scars' or traits that were outwardly visible. These traits ‘invented’ or ‘identified’ by professionals with knowledge. Individuals were inscribed with these traits in a social context. ‘Madness’ not a biological category it is a social one. All human bodies a product of social and discursive processes of inscription.

14 Critiques of Foucault. Suggests that individuals are simply ‘effects’ of various discourses. Loses sight of human agency. A materialist history that neglects the denies the materiality of the Body but at the same time acknowledges a prediscursive ontology of the body. (Butler 1999) What then constitutes the prediscursive body? Ambiguous on the issue of whether there is body outside of culture (Butler 1999)

15 Foucault sought to remedy these problems in two interrelated ways
He established a distinct notion of power. One of the aspects of this theory of power was that wherever there was power there was resistance. Foucault suggested the concept of the ‘technologies of self’ with which to consider the manner in which ‘real’ human bodies and not just constructed ‘subject-positions’ might resist these disciplining discourses.

16 Bakhtin, resistance and the Carnivalesque Body 1
Bakhtin interested in the overturning of meanings around the impure or abnormal aspects of culture and embodiment. Looks at the medieval and early modern carnival Carnivalesque activities including ‘ritual spectacles’ -fairs, feasts, circuses, processions, theatre, dance Sites where boundaries between pure and impure, mad and sane, sacred and profane, and high and low culture were transgressed. During carnival season the world ‘turned upside down’. Three major themes -food, sex and violence.

17 Bakhtin, resistance and the Carnivalesque Body 2
Rituals celebrated sexuality. Aggressive and violent acts depicted symbolically in rituals. Real acts of violence also - fighting, torture, stoning or killing of animals At Carnival social class inverted, gender roles ‘played with’ People dress as animals, jesters, clerics and tramps. Carnival represented a temporary inversion of all accepted categories. Unlike high cultural forms the carnivalesque celebrated the low / base/ vulgar. Grotesque body privileged over the borgeois civilized body. Grotesque body open, borderless, an animal, hybrid body uncivilised and uncontained. Temporarily free of Foucault's disciplinary technologies. A body that resisted control.

18 Passive Docile Bodies. Foucaults body a passive ‘receptor’ of social control. A ‘transcendental’ body -waiting to be inscribed Body relatively static and ‘amenable’, to the processes of inscription. Body is ‘singular’ and ‘passive’. Discourses of modernity seek to create docile bodies. Bodies ‘disciplined’ by discourses into efficient and productive ‘materials’ needs of capital and the bio-political state. The discourses of Madness and sexuality regulate our social behaviour by defining what is normal and what is not. Modernity, for Foucault, is based upon a biopolitics. Modernity seeks to make bodies productive, functional bodies.

19 The exclusion of the Biological body.
Marcel Mauss one of the first to suggest the ways in which apparently 'biological' traits such as walking and talking are in large part shaped and determined by socio-cultural processes. Feminist Dale Spender argues that the fact women and men talk in different ways to one another is of social and not biological significance. Robert Hertz -dominance of right hand was ‘of little biological importance but of the greatest social significance’. Norbert Elias - socio-historical processes led to modern notion of a disciplined, civilised body.

20 Cultured bodies-Elias and 'the Civilising process'.
Examines 'books of manners' for the Landed Aristocracy Postulates the existence of a civilising process from the 16th century onwards in the 'west'

21 'the Civilising process'.
1An emphasis on individual self-control of emotional and bodily behaviours. 2 The rationalization and the individualization bodies. 3 The targeting of individuals into norms and morals of self-discipline. 4. Individuals required to bring levels of self-control to toilet behaviour; sexual behaviour; eating habits these forms of conduct became increasingly rationalised and standardised 5 As a result there was the civilising of bodies. 6, This compares with the notion of the grotesque pre-modem bodv in which sex, pleasure, violence and toilet behaviour were part of the public domain For Elias too the body is moulded by societies notions or normal and abnormal behavior Elias's body is a body inscribed with culture.

22 Sociology .v. Biology. Biologists take body as point of departure in human functioning. Physiological architecture sometimes used to explain human behaviour. Territorial disputes with psychologists and sociologists. A highly political conflict.

23 The Politics of Biological Reductionism
Tendency amongst biologists to assume that human behaviour and social arrangements are natural and inevitable. Dictated by structure and functioning of the 'natural' body. Little scope for change in the short term. Percieved by sociologists to be conservative and champions of the status quo. Gender roles different due to 'natural' difference o0f men’s and women’s bodies. Sociologists concerned that biologists 'naturalise’ difference

24 Sociobiology, socio-cultural difference and the natural body.
EO Wilson (Sociobiology: 1975) Suggests animal and human behaviour can be studied by using an evolutionary framework. Neo-Darwinism. Inequalities between men and women attributed to their biological differences. Sociobiology used to explain differences in educational achievment by reference to biological difference. Leftists concerned that sociobiologists were saying such inequalities were somehow natural and inevitable.

25 The Politics of Evolutionary Theory
Herbert Spencer used evolutionary theory to explain social change. Spencer argued that social inequality, conflict, and suffering were nature’s mechanisms for weeding out the weak Natural selection would produce stronger and better society. A perversion of Darwins theory of evolution Spencers theory dangerous Societies do not benefit from allowing people to suffer Evolutionary theory appropriated by extremists Fed into theories about selective breeding in human societies -eugenics Eugenicism and Nazism

26 Beyond Biophobia- New Directions in Sociology
Until Foucault Sociologists largely refused to acknowledge corporeality. Fears that engagement with human embodiment will lead to biological reductionism. Time to engage with the facts of our embodiment. Blindspots in sociological knowledge due to the omission of the materiality of the body Biological reductionism -not the only way to deal with the biological facts of our existence. Physiology affects culture and culture has determining effects on the structure and functioning of our bodies. Neuroscience interested in bio-social interface.

27 Subjectivity, identity, emotion and the biosocial.
Many of the emotions that go towards making human subjectivity have a biological infrastructure. Language we use to describe our subjective experiences of the world are social and cultural in character, but many forms of emotion a physiological phenomenon. Sociologists often accused of treating identity as entirely a social construct and ignoring the embodied nature of subjectivity. Adequate accounts of subjectivity must take a more integrative approach. To understand the role of subjectivity in our social existence we must acknowledge the way that the body produces it in us through emotion as well as how our bodies are socialized and acculturated. Socialisation can produce physiological change- look at the naturally stronger bodies of men, they have evolved physiologically to be stronger because culture has determined certain roles for men.

28 Conclusion Social constructionists agree that gender roles are culturally determined but they still insist in ignoring the physiological affects of culture on our bodies and the cultural affects on our physiology. We must go past the notion that we are passive machines inscribed with culture. Subjectivity and identity are partly emotional in nature. Our emotions are physiological. Sociologists need to consider that we are both biologically and socially determined.

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