Everyday Life - The Body
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Everyday Life - The Body

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We all perform through our bodies, representing who we are by the way in which we carry, dress, adorn, use, or abuse our bodies. This has led many to observe that the body is a site of politics and ...

We all perform through our bodies, representing who we are by the way in which we carry, dress, adorn, use, or abuse our bodies. This has led many to observe that the body is a site of politics and of culture. Our relationship to our bodies changes with technological advance and in reaction to political debate. We shall be examining how the body becomes a site of contestation within and across cultures. What does it mean to see the body as ‘made meaningful through culture’? How is culture performed by the body? Which techniques of the body are and are not appropriate to your culture?

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Everyday Life - The Body Everyday Life - The Body Document Transcript

  • Everyday Life 4 The Body Dr Alana Lentin a.lentin@uws.edu.au Wednesday, 14 August 13
  • ‘I’m addicted to tattoos’ Wednesday, 14 August 13 How does this film make you feel? Is this woman at home in her culture? Ask students first, then ask... How can the body make you feel attached or disconnected to society? How do we use the body to make an individual statement to society? How can our body be used to exclude us from society?
  • ‘I’m addicted to tattoos’ Wednesday, 14 August 13 How does this film make you feel? Is this woman at home in her culture? Ask students first, then ask... How can the body make you feel attached or disconnected to society? How do we use the body to make an individual statement to society? How can our body be used to exclude us from society?
  • The body is at the intersection of nature and culture, of the individual and society, of space and time, of corporeality and spirituality (mind), and as such, it is subject to social control but is also the seat of individuality, the material substrate of our physical existence, thought and social relations.’ Varga (2005: 210) Wednesday, 14 August 13 Why study the body? Explain quote and add that the body is also an important site of political contestation.
  • Overview Embodiment and the everyday The body across cultures The regulated social body From technique to technology Wednesday, 14 August 13
  • Embodiment & the Everyday Wednesday, 14 August 13 1. Embodiment as my/your experience of the body. A group of philosophers in the early 20th Century - phenomenologists (especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty) speak about embodiment. They showed that we do not observe our body in terms of its physiological functions, but in relation to what it can do for us. They called how we each experience the body the phenomenal body. We do not need to understand what physiological processes are necessary to observe that the body is capable of doing something. (e.g., now some of you are taking notes, but we don’t need to know the names of all the muscles involved in the act of writing, or about how the ear through which you are hearing my lecture connects to the brain and then sends messages to the hand to write, etc.). Once we learn how to write it becomes second nature and we might only be concerned with thinking about our physiology if we can no longer write, e.g. if you have an accident and lose the use of your hand. So, using the body is an everyday phenomenon. But, as can be seen from the photos, the same bodily function may be experienced very differently depending on who you are. Squatting is easy for children, but in western society we lose the function of squatting and have to relearn it as an unnatural physical/sporting activity. 2. Mauss’s techniques of the body. Marcel Mauss, a French anthropologist (early 20th c.) Mauss observed that in all societies people use their bodies, but that they use them differently, and that the way we use our bodies changes over time. The squatting example speaks to this. He noted that while using the body appears natural, it has to be learned. He notes changes in fashion in swimming and walking during his lifetime. Children might imitate bodily movements, but education overrides imitation - we are educated to use our bodies in certain ways and not in others. For example, once a child knows how to walk, we encourage her not to crawl anymore (why?). Mauss calls the way we use our bodies ‘techniques’: ‘I call “technique” an action that is effective and traditional’ (p. 461). It is traditional because we transmit the techniques (e.g. educate others to do them). This is what, for Mauss, distinguishes human beings from animals.
  • Embodiment & the Everyday Embodiment: my/your experience of the body (phenomenology) Wednesday, 14 August 13 1. Embodiment as my/your experience of the body. A group of philosophers in the early 20th Century - phenomenologists (especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty) speak about embodiment. They showed that we do not observe our body in terms of its physiological functions, but in relation to what it can do for us. They called how we each experience the body the phenomenal body. We do not need to understand what physiological processes are necessary to observe that the body is capable of doing something. (e.g., now some of you are taking notes, but we don’t need to know the names of all the muscles involved in the act of writing, or about how the ear through which you are hearing my lecture connects to the brain and then sends messages to the hand to write, etc.). Once we learn how to write it becomes second nature and we might only be concerned with thinking about our physiology if we can no longer write, e.g. if you have an accident and lose the use of your hand. So, using the body is an everyday phenomenon. But, as can be seen from the photos, the same bodily function may be experienced very differently depending on who you are. Squatting is easy for children, but in western society we lose the function of squatting and have to relearn it as an unnatural physical/sporting activity. 2. Mauss’s techniques of the body. Marcel Mauss, a French anthropologist (early 20th c.) Mauss observed that in all societies people use their bodies, but that they use them differently, and that the way we use our bodies changes over time. The squatting example speaks to this. He noted that while using the body appears natural, it has to be learned. He notes changes in fashion in swimming and walking during his lifetime. Children might imitate bodily movements, but education overrides imitation - we are educated to use our bodies in certain ways and not in others. For example, once a child knows how to walk, we encourage her not to crawl anymore (why?). Mauss calls the way we use our bodies ‘techniques’: ‘I call “technique” an action that is effective and traditional’ (p. 461). It is traditional because we transmit the techniques (e.g. educate others to do them). This is what, for Mauss, distinguishes human beings from animals.
  • Embodiment & the Everyday Embodiment: my/your experience of the body (phenomenology) The body as a tool/ techniques of the body (Mauss) Wednesday, 14 August 13 1. Embodiment as my/your experience of the body. A group of philosophers in the early 20th Century - phenomenologists (especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty) speak about embodiment. They showed that we do not observe our body in terms of its physiological functions, but in relation to what it can do for us. They called how we each experience the body the phenomenal body. We do not need to understand what physiological processes are necessary to observe that the body is capable of doing something. (e.g., now some of you are taking notes, but we don’t need to know the names of all the muscles involved in the act of writing, or about how the ear through which you are hearing my lecture connects to the brain and then sends messages to the hand to write, etc.). Once we learn how to write it becomes second nature and we might only be concerned with thinking about our physiology if we can no longer write, e.g. if you have an accident and lose the use of your hand. So, using the body is an everyday phenomenon. But, as can be seen from the photos, the same bodily function may be experienced very differently depending on who you are. Squatting is easy for children, but in western society we lose the function of squatting and have to relearn it as an unnatural physical/sporting activity. 2. Mauss’s techniques of the body. Marcel Mauss, a French anthropologist (early 20th c.) Mauss observed that in all societies people use their bodies, but that they use them differently, and that the way we use our bodies changes over time. The squatting example speaks to this. He noted that while using the body appears natural, it has to be learned. He notes changes in fashion in swimming and walking during his lifetime. Children might imitate bodily movements, but education overrides imitation - we are educated to use our bodies in certain ways and not in others. For example, once a child knows how to walk, we encourage her not to crawl anymore (why?). Mauss calls the way we use our bodies ‘techniques’: ‘I call “technique” an action that is effective and traditional’ (p. 461). It is traditional because we transmit the techniques (e.g. educate others to do them). This is what, for Mauss, distinguishes human beings from animals.
  • Embodiment & the Everyday ‘[S]tudies under the rubric of embodiment are not 'about' the body per se. Instead they are about culture and experience insofar as these can be understood from the standpoint of bodily being-in-the-world.’ Thomas Csordas in Weiss, G. and Haber, H., (eds.), Perspectives on Embodiment (1999). Wednesday, 14 August 13 1. Embodiment as my/your experience of the body. A group of philosophers in the early 20th Century - phenomenologists (especially Maurice Merleau-Ponty) speak about embodiment. They showed that we do not observe our body in terms of its physiological functions, but in relation to what it can do for us. They called how we each experience the body the phenomenal body. We do not need to understand what physiological processes are necessary to observe that the body is capable of doing something. (e.g., now some of you are taking notes, but we don’t need to know the names of all the muscles involved in the act of writing, or about how the ear through which you are hearing my lecture connects to the brain and then sends messages to the hand to write, etc.). Once we learn how to write it becomes second nature and we might only be concerned with thinking about our physiology if we can no longer write, e.g. if you have an accident and lose the use of your hand. So, using the body is an everyday phenomenon. But, as can be seen from the photos, the same bodily function may be experienced very differently depending on who you are. Squatting is easy for children, but in western society we lose the function of squatting and have to relearn it as an unnatural physical/sporting activity. 2. Mauss’s techniques of the body. Marcel Mauss, a French anthropologist (early 20th c.) Mauss observed that in all societies people use their bodies, but that they use them differently, and that the way we use our bodies changes over time. The squatting example speaks to this. He noted that while using the body appears natural, it has to be learned. He notes changes in fashion in swimming and walking during his lifetime. Children might imitate bodily movements, but education overrides imitation - we are educated to use our bodies in certain ways and not in others. For example, once a child knows how to walk, we encourage her not to crawl anymore (why?). Mauss calls the way we use our bodies ‘techniques’: ‘I call “technique” an action that is effective and traditional’ (p. 461). It is traditional because we transmit the techniques (e.g. educate others to do them). This is what, for Mauss, distinguishes human beings from animals.
  • The body across cultures Culture is embodied The way we use our bodies is used to differentiate between people, cultures, etc. Wednesday, 14 August 13 Look at the photo. How do you read it? What do you think is the relationship between these two men? What reactions would they get here in Australia? 1. Culture is embodied We wear our culture on our bodies to a large extent, as the previous examples about squatting indicated. The differences between the way different cultures relate to their bodies is based on a different conception of the relationship between the mind and the body. How is this relationship conceived of in western thought?
  • Wednesday, 14 August 13 Western thought: Everyone has heard the expression, ‘I think, therefore, I am’ but what does it say about embodiment? Western thought/philosophy is based on: • the separation of the mind and the body, • or of the spirit/soul and the body. Rene Descartes (1596-1650), was an 17th century philosopher • early antecedent of the Enlightenment (when natural or experimental science begins to separate from theology). He is most famous for cogito ergo sum What does this mean? Doubted everything => until he had evidence but ‘I think therefore I must exist’ means there must be a ‘thinking thing’. This thinking thing or soul/mind is an intangible substance • that he contrasted with the tangible substance of body. This view separated mind and body. As a result we see the mind as less bodily than the body (though in fact it is a biological organ) We call this division between mind and body Cartesian Dualism. Now why would that have been important at the time that Decartes was alive? In earlier medieval and Christian conceptions of the person, the soul is not entirely separate from the body – it is still part of God’s creation. Descartes was a Catholic, • but still by separating the soul off, • he essentially opens up the body as the domain of science …
  • Wednesday, 14 August 13 According to Varga, all religious and philosophical systems are concerned with the relationship between the mind/ soul and the body, but they have different approaches to the relationship. e.g. Hinduism/Buddhism (this is a picture of a Hindu Sadhu who has renounced life in the quest for nirvana). In Hinduism the mind is not superior to the body, as in western thought. The body is the path through which spirituality flows. That is why it is vital to keep the body healthy (yoga). For Buddhists, the body can be the instrument for the liberation of the soul. e.g. use of meditation to control the desires of the body and rise beyond material (bodily) concerns to attain nirvana (extinction).
  • The body as a marker of difference ‘Symbolic boundaries keep the categories 'pure', giving cultures their unique meaning and identity. What unsettles culture is 'matter out of place' - the breaking of our unwritten rules and codes. Dirt in the garden is fine, but dirt in one's bedroom is 'matter out of place' - a sign of pollution, of symbolic boundaries being transgressed, of taboos broken. What we do with 'matter out of place' is to sweep it up, throw it out, restore the place to order, bring back the normal state of affairs.’ Stuart Hall, The Spectacle of the Other (1997) Saartje Bartman, aka ‘The Hottentot Venus’ Wednesday, 14 August 13 The body is also used to mark out and differentiate people from each other. The Stuart Hall quote refers to the anthropologist Mary Douglas who spoke about what happens when we perceive that something does not belong where it is - ‘matter out of place’. We want to get rid of it. Hall discusses this in relation to race. We ‘read the body like a language’, he says. In other words, we make decisions about what people are likely to be like, how they think, how intelligent they are, what they are good at, etc. based on signs we see on their bodies. So, skin colour is ‘read’ as either positive or negative. People with black skin have historically been seen as less intelligent because we make an association between what is on the outside and what is on the inside. The picture of Saartje Bartman is examplary - The so-called ‘Hottentot Venus’, Bartman was brought to Europe for shows and fairs, put on display for Europeans to observe her ‘unnaturally’ large sexual organs. On her death, Bartman’s body was dissected and the various parts are still kept in the Musee de l’Homme in Paris. We value different bodies differently. [click to reveal Beyonce photo]: What about this photo of Beyonce? Critics pointed out that her skin had been lightened for this l’Oreal ad? Why? Do you think she looks more attractive? Would people be more likely to buy this hair colour because her skin/hair are lighter? Take a close look at her nose in both photos...
  • The body as a marker of difference ‘Symbolic boundaries keep the categories 'pure', giving cultures their unique meaning and identity. What unsettles culture is 'matter out of place' - the breaking of our unwritten rules and codes. Dirt in the garden is fine, but dirt in one's bedroom is 'matter out of place' - a sign of pollution, of symbolic boundaries being transgressed, of taboos broken. What we do with 'matter out of place' is to sweep it up, throw it out, restore the place to order, bring back the normal state of affairs.’ Stuart Hall, The Spectacle of the Other (1997) Who is the ‘real’ Beyonce? Wednesday, 14 August 13 The body is also used to mark out and differentiate people from each other. The Stuart Hall quote refers to the anthropologist Mary Douglas who spoke about what happens when we perceive that something does not belong where it is - ‘matter out of place’. We want to get rid of it. Hall discusses this in relation to race. We ‘read the body like a language’, he says. In other words, we make decisions about what people are likely to be like, how they think, how intelligent they are, what they are good at, etc. based on signs we see on their bodies. So, skin colour is ‘read’ as either positive or negative. People with black skin have historically been seen as less intelligent because we make an association between what is on the outside and what is on the inside. The picture of Saartje Bartman is examplary - The so-called ‘Hottentot Venus’, Bartman was brought to Europe for shows and fairs, put on display for Europeans to observe her ‘unnaturally’ large sexual organs. On her death, Bartman’s body was dissected and the various parts are still kept in the Musee de l’Homme in Paris. We value different bodies differently. [click to reveal Beyonce photo]: What about this photo of Beyonce? Critics pointed out that her skin had been lightened for this l’Oreal ad? Why? Do you think she looks more attractive? Would people be more likely to buy this hair colour because her skin/hair are lighter? Take a close look at her nose in both photos...
  • Cultural appropriation? Wednesday, 14 August 13 How about when bodily signs are borrowed between cultures, such as in the extreme case of scarification (also tattoos, piercing, etc.). Are the reasons for the scarification the same? What reasons would a person have to engage in these practices when they don’t come from the same cultural background as where this is originally practiced.
  • The regulated social body The individual & society Disciplining the body Georg Simmel Michel Foucault Wednesday, 14 August 13 One clue to the last question (previous slide) is the search for indviduality and uniqueness. 1. The sociologist Georg Simmel broke with western tradition that prioritised the importance of the mind over the body as the substance of the individual. Simmel did not ignore the mind, but claimed the body was also important. He looked at things such as fashion and flirting as important markers of individuality that have an impact on how the individual interacts with society. Maybe by scarifying (or extreme tattooing like in the first video) people are using their bodies to impact on the society - claiming a place, announcing themselves, stressing their individuality. Simmel thought that while the individual is influenced by what he called an ‘objective culture’, each individual is unable to completely assimilate that culture because everyone has the power to create their own ideas and to run their lives according to their own rules. The body may be the only area of life where we have complete control over ourselves. We can do what we like to our own bodies - transform them with make-up or dress, tattoo, scarify, pierce, lose weight, gain weight, cut, build muscle, etc. 2. Michel Foucault took the analysis of the mind-body relationship one step further. Rather than seeing the body as controlled by the soul, he saw the soul as the prison of the body. The body is controlled , disciplined and surveilled as a means of better controlling the individual’s mind. This does not only happen directly (through coercion) but also indirectly: there are social norms regulating the body. In other words, there are ideas of what the normal body is like to which we are pushed to conform. We police our own bodies as a means of ensuring acceptability in society. In our society, at present, this can be seen most clearly in relation to body image.
  • Body Images through culture & time Wednesday, 14 August 13 Look at these three pictures, all of ‘beautiful’ women. Our views about ideal body weight have changed dramatically since the 1950s when Marilym Monroe, who was a size 16 was considered one of the world’s most beautiful women. Today, Gisele Bundchen earns millions of dollars as a model. In Monroe’s day her protruding bones would never have been seen as beautiful. It appears that beauty in western culture is associated with self-discipline and restraint. Why? Becker (Body, Self and Society, 1995) has shown that in American culture (and I could say most of the West) the body • belongs to the self and • its attributes are representative of the self’s essence. The body shape and weight are ultimately seen as a symbol of: indulgence (obesity), restraint (thinness), or discipline (toned muscles). People are constantly labouring on the body because it is a key to one’s self-image. It shows who you are. The ultimate consequence of this is restrictive dieting or obsessive exercise, verging toward eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are very much culturally specific syndromes of American culture and the West. By contrast, Becker showed that in Fiji the person is • not an individual, but is dependent on the community. In Fiji the body shape is important, but not a personal/individual goal. Because the fundamental orientation of the Fijian society is to the community, • the body shape shows how much the community cares for you.
  • Fat shaming http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fat%20issues Wednesday, 14 August 13 In the West, there is an ever-growing market in fat-shaming as concerns about obesity meet opportunities to market people’s desperation. ‘The Biggest loser’ is a good example of how shame and guilt are used to convince overweight people that they are not only a risk to their own health, but a drain on societal resources. This is particularly interesting in a context like the US where there is little to no public health care, so arguably the more unhealthy people are, the more the medical profession stands to gain. Nevertheless, to be fat appears to be the ultimate marker of lack of restraint, which is seen as highly important in an individualised society where the way you look is taken to mean much more. e.g. according to a poll taken in New York, thin people are thought to be happier and more successful than fat people. Fat shaming is the main tactic used in campaigns to fight obesity, for example in this ad US campaign [click to reveal pic]. According to psychologist, Angela Sutin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/fat-shaming-weight- gain_n_3670560.html), overweight people who were submitted to shaming tactics were two times more likely to become obese by the end of the study. So, fat shaming does not work, but it is very common, extending from medical practioners, to TV shows and ads, to interactions with other people. As an article in XO Jane shows, overweight people are generally considered to be unhealthy and it therefore appears acceptable to police their behaviour in public. Women especially fall victim to this, as they may also receive sexist attacks (link to next week). For example, the article in XO Jane recalls and incident when the author’s shopping trolley became the subject of observation, with another woman recommending that she buy low-fat substitutes for her butter. Can we imagine this happening in other social situations? For example, would we tell a thin person at a supermarket to buy more high calories foods? Policing by society leads to increased self-policing (Foucault => we control our own behaviour to match society’s expectations)
  • Fat shaming http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fat%20issues Wednesday, 14 August 13 In the West, there is an ever-growing market in fat-shaming as concerns about obesity meet opportunities to market people’s desperation. ‘The Biggest loser’ is a good example of how shame and guilt are used to convince overweight people that they are not only a risk to their own health, but a drain on societal resources. This is particularly interesting in a context like the US where there is little to no public health care, so arguably the more unhealthy people are, the more the medical profession stands to gain. Nevertheless, to be fat appears to be the ultimate marker of lack of restraint, which is seen as highly important in an individualised society where the way you look is taken to mean much more. e.g. according to a poll taken in New York, thin people are thought to be happier and more successful than fat people. Fat shaming is the main tactic used in campaigns to fight obesity, for example in this ad US campaign [click to reveal pic]. According to psychologist, Angela Sutin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/fat-shaming-weight- gain_n_3670560.html), overweight people who were submitted to shaming tactics were two times more likely to become obese by the end of the study. So, fat shaming does not work, but it is very common, extending from medical practioners, to TV shows and ads, to interactions with other people. As an article in XO Jane shows, overweight people are generally considered to be unhealthy and it therefore appears acceptable to police their behaviour in public. Women especially fall victim to this, as they may also receive sexist attacks (link to next week). For example, the article in XO Jane recalls and incident when the author’s shopping trolley became the subject of observation, with another woman recommending that she buy low-fat substitutes for her butter. Can we imagine this happening in other social situations? For example, would we tell a thin person at a supermarket to buy more high calories foods? Policing by society leads to increased self-policing (Foucault => we control our own behaviour to match society’s expectations)
  • Fat shaming http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fat%20issues Wednesday, 14 August 13 In the West, there is an ever-growing market in fat-shaming as concerns about obesity meet opportunities to market people’s desperation. ‘The Biggest loser’ is a good example of how shame and guilt are used to convince overweight people that they are not only a risk to their own health, but a drain on societal resources. This is particularly interesting in a context like the US where there is little to no public health care, so arguably the more unhealthy people are, the more the medical profession stands to gain. Nevertheless, to be fat appears to be the ultimate marker of lack of restraint, which is seen as highly important in an individualised society where the way you look is taken to mean much more. e.g. according to a poll taken in New York, thin people are thought to be happier and more successful than fat people. Fat shaming is the main tactic used in campaigns to fight obesity, for example in this ad US campaign [click to reveal pic]. According to psychologist, Angela Sutin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/fat-shaming-weight- gain_n_3670560.html), overweight people who were submitted to shaming tactics were two times more likely to become obese by the end of the study. So, fat shaming does not work, but it is very common, extending from medical practioners, to TV shows and ads, to interactions with other people. As an article in XO Jane shows, overweight people are generally considered to be unhealthy and it therefore appears acceptable to police their behaviour in public. Women especially fall victim to this, as they may also receive sexist attacks (link to next week). For example, the article in XO Jane recalls and incident when the author’s shopping trolley became the subject of observation, with another woman recommending that she buy low-fat substitutes for her butter. Can we imagine this happening in other social situations? For example, would we tell a thin person at a supermarket to buy more high calories foods? Policing by society leads to increased self-policing (Foucault => we control our own behaviour to match society’s expectations)
  • Fat shaming http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fat%20issues Wednesday, 14 August 13 In the West, there is an ever-growing market in fat-shaming as concerns about obesity meet opportunities to market people’s desperation. ‘The Biggest loser’ is a good example of how shame and guilt are used to convince overweight people that they are not only a risk to their own health, but a drain on societal resources. This is particularly interesting in a context like the US where there is little to no public health care, so arguably the more unhealthy people are, the more the medical profession stands to gain. Nevertheless, to be fat appears to be the ultimate marker of lack of restraint, which is seen as highly important in an individualised society where the way you look is taken to mean much more. e.g. according to a poll taken in New York, thin people are thought to be happier and more successful than fat people. Fat shaming is the main tactic used in campaigns to fight obesity, for example in this ad US campaign [click to reveal pic]. According to psychologist, Angela Sutin (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/fat-shaming-weight- gain_n_3670560.html), overweight people who were submitted to shaming tactics were two times more likely to become obese by the end of the study. So, fat shaming does not work, but it is very common, extending from medical practioners, to TV shows and ads, to interactions with other people. As an article in XO Jane shows, overweight people are generally considered to be unhealthy and it therefore appears acceptable to police their behaviour in public. Women especially fall victim to this, as they may also receive sexist attacks (link to next week). For example, the article in XO Jane recalls and incident when the author’s shopping trolley became the subject of observation, with another woman recommending that she buy low-fat substitutes for her butter. Can we imagine this happening in other social situations? For example, would we tell a thin person at a supermarket to buy more high calories foods? Policing by society leads to increased self-policing (Foucault => we control our own behaviour to match society’s expectations)
  • From technique to technology The body in hypermodernity Disembodiment The supremacy of the natural? Designer bodies Wednesday, 14 August 13 1. The end-point of western society’s focus on the individual, and the individual body as the ultimate expression of the self, is the ‘designing’ of our desired bodies. As Varga notes, in ‘hypermodernity’ - the current era - technology can be used to manipulate the body in a variety of ways, e.g. for reproduction (‘bespoke babies’, human cloning etc.), curing illness or for medical research (e.g. stem cell research), or for cosmetic changes (cosmetic surgery/enhancement). 2. Varga: the technological advances of hypermodernity curiously mean that we are less embodied than before - i.e. we are more disconnected from our bodies. So, while, as we have seen, there is a greater obsession with our own bodies, their health, and the image of the body that we project in society, at the same time we are less connected to our bodies than ever before. In pre-modern times - and still in many non-western countries - people knew more about the functioning of the body. The could ‘listen’ to the body and cure it. Hence the knowledge about which plants and foods were good for healing various ailments (today usually dismissed as ‘old wives tales’). Today, we tush to the doctor/take pills and are no longer confident in knowing our own bodies. This is because in modern times, we need ‘experts’ to diagnose or verify symptoms (not only in medicine). Varga claims that in hypermodernity the spread of microelectronic technology and virtual reality has led to the disembodiment of the body. Virtual reality (e.g. interaction over the internet) ‘eliminates natural spatial relations and the temporal relations of the body.’ The increased use of the internet means that we use less of our senses - we rely on the visual much more than on the tactile, olfactory (smell), auditory, etc. - so necessarily, the way we use our bodies, experience them and interact with other bodies changes. Think about online dating: people in online dating situations rely on the photograph of the person and the written description, but nothing can replace the feeling upon meeting someone ‘in the flesh’ - we rely on more than just our visual sense in such meetings. As Varga says, in extreme cases, we can even ‘have “virtual sex” without encountering a living body, thus transforming the libido to an image.’ So, the body becomes increasingly externalised and strange to us.
  • Summary Culture is embodied Our relationship to our bodies changes through cultures and times The body is socially regulated We have moved from the technical to the technological body Wednesday, 14 August 13