Moore, L.J. and M. Kosut. 2010. The Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings.

Moore, Lisa Jean and Mary Kosut. 2010. The Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings. New York: New York University Press.

“Introduction: Not Just the Reflexive Reflex: Flesh and Bone in the Social Sciences.” Mary Kosut and Lisa Jean Moore. Pp. 1-30.

“ The body is a medium or raw material through which we navigate the world, but it is also an entity that is invested with meanings. Outing our bodies, speaking of and through them, is not only a subjective individual act but is also a political and cultural act. This is the case because bodies can convey a range of statuses, ranks, and relationships. Bodies may be read aesthetically, as things to be beautified, fixed, fetishized, and adorned. Or bodies can be registered bureaucratically and demographically via binary categories like male or female, black or white, and straight or gay. Bodies may convey national pride, as in the case of Olympic athletes who symbolically represent the fittest and the best. Or, conversely, bodies can communicate the effects of institutional racism, abandonment, and neglect […] (1). Williams and Bendelow (1998) – move from theorizing about bodies to theorizing from lived experience in bodies. Trans* and cyber bodies question attachments of social categories like gender or race, contestation of what constitutes a healthy or a living body, rising plastic surgery contests what is a ‘real’ body. Simmel (“Adornment” Wolff 1950) – adornment of the body for the sake of the individual self, but cannot achieve egoistic pleasure without the presence and recognition of society. Marx – control and machination of workers’ bodies; Weber – protestant denial and control of bodies through rationalization and religion. Durkheim – individual body as secondary to social body, even in writings on suicide – sacrifice of body to social world. Mead disembodies I and Me – classical sociology tends to ignore tangibility of body, is superseded by bodily experiences of social worlds of economics, religion, and politics. Bourdieu – body as a conveyor and reproducer of social structure, body bars social values – “the body is the most indisputable materialization of class taste” (1984) – “Bourdieu acknowledges that bodies are biological, yet stresses that they are inherently unfinished, becoming transformed (imbued with marks of social class) within society […] As such, the body is a resource to greater or lesser degrees, and can be converted into economic, cultural, and social capital” (11). Foucault – the body is “directly involved in a political field: power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs” (1979) – bodies are formed through manifestations of power and discourse – the creation of docile bodies through punishment and discipline, and the medicalization of sexualized bodies – limited by how Foucault never discusses how individuals change discourse or culture, how we resist discourse, and how his subjects are disembodied and theoreticized. Goffman – embodied practices are socially constrained, management of bodies through impression management and interaction rituals. Giddens casts body as an “action system” (1991) where everyday life becomes necessary to maintaining constant sense of self-identity, where “the reflexivity of the self extends to the body” (1991) – bodies are maintained and modified in collaboration with this reflexivity. Mike Featherstone – media promotes stylized versions of ideal bodies, aids in the marketability and value of self (1991). Feminist contributions: “Certain bodies survive and thrive according to economic resources and social power. For example, men’s bodies are at risk of military, athletic, and industrial exploitation, and for disadvantaged men, imprisonment, while women’s bodies are controlled by institutions dominated by men, namely medicine and religion” (16). Anthropology – the body is “simultaneously a physical and symbolic artifact that is both naturally and culturally produced, and is securely anchored in a particular historical moment” – Scheper-Hughes and Lock (1987). Merleau-Ponty (1962) challenges binary of mind and body – perception rejects object/subject division and instead “our mind perceives (observes, identifies), it does so through a practical and sensual embodied location within the social realm” (21) – contributes to phenomenologies of body


Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London: Routledge.

Featherstone, Mike. 1991. Consumer Culture and Postmodernism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Foucault, Michel. 1979. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.

Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2005 [1962]. Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Margaret Lock. 1987. “The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to an Anthropology of the Body.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1: 6-41.

Williams, Simon and Gillian Bendelow. 1998. The Lived Body: Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues. New York: Routledge.

Wolff, Kurt. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. New York: Free Press.

Frank, Arthur. “The Bodies Problem with Illness.”

In The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. 1995. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 27-52.

Body-self response to problems with actions, as responses and potential solutions to issues. How can the body achieve predictability (control), and stigma associated with lack of control – illness and sick role. “Passing” as well holds a point of identity and impression management. Body-relatedness associates the self’s relationship to the corporal body. Other-relatedness expands how bodies communicate and relate to other bodies, sharing corporeality, and building empathy, bringing in others to experience our bodies and our bodily experiences. Desire – wanting more – desire expressed for body, with body, and through body. Disciplined bodies transforms bodies into “its” – dissociating selves from bodies, lacking desire, and offering regimentation for the self, through the body practice. Mirroring bodies act through consumption – “The body is both instrument and object of consuming: the body is used to consume, and consumption enhances the body: feeding it, clothing it, grooming it, and in the consumption of medical practices, curing it. The body-self is called mirroring because consumption attempts to recreate the body in the images of other bodies: more stylish and healthier bodies” (here 40). Mirroring bodies seek predictability but is associated intimately with the body. Dominating bodies dissociate selves with bodies, and repress desire, in terms of making sure that others do not have the same feelings. Communicative bodies associates body with self, embraces desire, communicating through corporeality.

“Extreme Bodies/Extreme Culture.” Mary Kosut. Pp. 184-200.

Popularization of body modifications presses more extreme body modifications to the fringes – began with ‘modern primitive’ movement of late 1970s, led by Fakir Musafar (based in West Coast) to incorporate cutting, branding, scarification, and suspension practices into a lifestyle based on difference. Modern primitives mostly white, American, semi-suburban. More people are engaging in body work and body play (though somewhat culturally sanctioned) through practices of cosmetic surgery and the modifications mentioned above. “Extreme culture” – a culture marked by practice of deviant behaviors are marked by ‘extreme bodies’ – an ideal type that defies size, ability, behavior – “ characterized as a distinctively malleable, flexible, and fluid entity. As such, extreme bodies engage in practices and regimes that push beyond the mundane or acceptable. Extreme bodies are the product of excessive physical modification, transformation, or activity, and also are aware of, and accept, the physical risks that come with radical carnal engagement” (186). Based in 1960s counterculture and technological and economic growth of 1990s (as well as globalization), extreme sports grew, signified by disaffected white teens- lethargic, plagued by ennui. Slacker ethos paired with corporate marketing spread this message to professionals and middle-class. Extreme as intense engagement, sensory or participation beyond the ordinary, through larger size, flavor, reaction, etc –motivations and meanings behind this press into everyday routines and interactions, shaping how we conceive of our bodies. Self-identity and reflexivity of Giddens construct biographical narratives, and press responsibility and design in self. Shillings (1993) notes body work as a process of becoming, a “project” to be undertaken. However, social locations and markers such as gender, race, class, sexuality (of corporeal identity) shape bodies and identities – bodies as a form of physical capital (a la Bourdieu) – “A valued body – healthy, attractive, white, heterosexual, etc. – can by extension be more easily converted into economic, cultural, and social capital. Socially disadvantaged bodies are not as likely to have access to the privileges that make certain body projects possible (189). Bodies and modification as a form of maintenance through consumptive practices – “In essence, a body that doesn’t constantly upgrade and display evidence is perceived to be abnormal or suspect, and thus is likely to be devalued” (190). Body representations in the media link to cultural manifestations – casts fears, desires, and thoughts onto the body, showing preference and value to certain ‘approved’ body forms – forms that fascinate us through their detail (interiorization – medicalization) or through transformation (changing bodies dramatically). Most studies of modern primitivism has focused upon the pursuit of spirituality and exoticism – where people look for entertainment or enlightenment in the Other, or in an ironic reappropriation (see also Kleese 1999 and Turner 1999) – extreme practices, instead, are “source of pleasure, identity, and embodied recreation” (194).


Kleese, Christian. 1999. “Modern Primitivism: Non-Mainstream Body Modification and Radicalized Representation.” Body and Society 5(2-3): 15-38.

Shillings, Chris. 1993. The Body and Social Theory, 2nd ed. London: Sage.

Turner, Bryan S. 1999. “The Possibility of Primitiveness: Toward a Sociology of Body Marks in Cool Societies.” Body and Society 5(2-3): 39-50.

“To Die For: The Semiotic Seductive Power of the Tanned Body.” Phillip Vannini and Aaron M. McCright. Pp. 228-251. From Symbolic Interaction 27(3): 309-332. 2004.

Popularity of tanned skin came from 1920s, outdoor leisure as a means of demonstrating elite status and affluence. “The body is both a subject and an object of action, and it is through our self-directed action and reflection that we communicate with others (Mead 1934, Peirce 1960, Strauss 1993)” (here 231). Actions given from the body, toward the body, and with respect to the body. Interactions as pressed through bodies a la Goffman, and mediated through enselfed body, offering it power or value? Tanning, here, plays with the authenticity of the body through a seduction frame – where appeals for voyeurism of strangers and intimates – deriving esteem through realization of semiotic power (and narcissism). Baudrillard (1990b) notes that hidden persuasion is over- instead, tanners display their symbolic exchange value on and in their skin; however, this must be managed to look as if they are not making it too obvious in tanning practices – relating the overuse of tanning technologies to constructing an inauthenticity or maluse of self. Desire and consumption of and for bodies is socially stratified, gendered, and raced.


Baudrillard, Jean. 1990. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso.

Mead, George H. 1934. Mind, Self and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Peirce, Charles S. 1960. Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. 6 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Strauss, Anselm. 1993. Continual Permutations of Action. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

“The Naked Self: Being a Body in Televideo Cybersex.” Dennis D. Waskul. Pp. 252-286.

  1. Symbolic Interaction 25(2):199-227.

In interactions, body becomes object to self and others, acting as subject and object. In sex, bodies become object of pleasure for selves and others. In cybersex, technologically mediated bodies offer absence of physical bodies, but instead offer textual bodies that evoke embodiment as images and as objects to be viewed. Technological mediation of liminal spaces, varies in embodiment forms – text-based chat differs from video (embodied) cybersex. Argues that body and self are not just two separate entities, but that bodies and selves are only experienced indirectly and through symbolic enactments of the ‘other’. Cybersex, like other points of exposure, takes place in liminal spaces (similar to baring breasts at Mardi Gras) – liminal space “represents a symbolic separation from the ordinary, a liminal period characterized by separate space, separate time, and separate activities (Edelsward 1991, 193 here 257). Exhibitionism versus voyeurism – controlling the gaze, eroticizing the gaze. “Erotic generators” of body parts that have been culturally sexualized and usually are concealed – nonsexual exposure often serves to create distance between body and the observer, or to neutralize that power (Davis 1983) – Objectification seems to derive from medium of exchange? “Computer-mediated communication is a dislocated form of interaction that occurs in a social ‘place’ without necessary connection to geographic ‘space’, where the activities of participants and experiences of self are not necessarily contained or affixed to corporeal bodies (Waskul, Douglass, and Edgley 2000) (here 273). Treatment of and deference to nude bodies are ritualistic and often sacred, rituals of sacred sexual bodies are often constructed by conditions and values that distance the normativity of it.


Davis, Murray. 1983. Smut: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Edelsward, L.M. 1991. “We Are More Open When We Are Naked.” Ethnos 56(3-4):189-199.

Waskul, Dennis, Mark Douglass, and Charles Edgely. 2000. “Cybersex: Outercourse and the Enselfrnent of the Body.” Symbolic Interaction 23(4): 375-397.

“Manscaping: The Tangle of Nature, Culture, and Male Body Hair. Pp. 287-304.

Women and nonwhites as associated with naturalness, disorder, chaos (Adams 1993, Gard 1993, King 1990, Plumwood 1993) – cast as others and bodies are in need of civilizing, often through the removal or ‘curing’ of hair. Industrialization and dominance, despite once associated with men’s hairiness, is now an indication of ‘naturalness,’ unkempt and chaotic masculinity. Exposure of the grotesque body during carnival, an equalizing and chaotic liminality, but offers a point to offer commodity goods and consumptive practices to tame this disorder.


Adams, Carol J. ed. 1993. Ecofeminism and the Sacred. New York: Continuum.

Gard, Greta. ed. 1993. Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

King, Ynestra. 1990. “Healing the Wounds: Feminism, Ecology, and the Nature/Culture Split.” In Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism. Edited by I. Diamond and G. Orenstein. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Plumwood, Val. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge.

“Fighting Abjection: Representing Fat Women.” Le’a Kent. Pp. 367-383.

In Bodies out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression. Edited by Braziel, Jana Evans and Kathleen LeBesco. 2001. University of California Press. Pp. 130-150.

Fatness associated with aberrance, is often associated with finding a way of rejecting body-neutrality and disembodiment. Media lack of representation of fat persons, even when fatness is being discussed; or, representations that are negative and demonstrate popular stigmas about fatness. “Literal erasure and extreme fragmentation characterize the few representations of fat people in the magazine” (369) – showing portions of fat bodies, internal landscapes of fatness, or fatness within medical settings. Common representations – fools, helpless slobs, lazy and ugly, invisible, only represented in weight loss ads, lacking self- control, as the ‘before’ picture – assumes that there is no fat person, but merely a fat condition. “In short, in the public sphere, fat bodies, and fat women’s bodies in particular, are represented as a kind of abject: that which must be expelled to make all other bodily representations and functions, even life itself, possible” (371). Abjection characterized as revulsion, horror associated with the body and its reflection of larger culture – distancing the relationship between the self and the body, severed from identity’s access. Even fat liberationist works (zines) often work to dissociate self and identity from bodies – however, reappropriating fat-shaming techniques for reclaiming what is abject, eroticizing bodies, parodying fatness and abjectivity, and using the body as a weapon of resistance.


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