Waskul, D. and P. Vannini. 2006. “Introduction: The Body in Symbolic Interaction.” In Body/Embodiment: Symbolic Interaction and the Sociology of the Body,

Waskul, Dennis D. and Phillip Vannini. 2006. “Introduction: The Body in Symbolic Interaction.” In Body/Embodiment: Symbolic Interaction and the Sociology of the Body, eds. Dennis Waskul and Phillip Vannini. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Pgs. 1-18.

“The body social is many things: the prime symbol of the self, but also of the society; it is something we have, yet also what we are; it is both subject and object at the same time [….] The body is both and individual creation, physically and phenomenologically, and a cultural product; it is personal, and also state property” (Synnott 1993, quoted here 1). The body’s review within sociology has been absent, but since early 1990s, this has begun to change – prompted by technological, political, social and cultural change.

See also for fashioned bodies: Calefato 2004; Entwistle 2000; Guy, Green, and Banim 2003; Virgili and Hodkinson 2002

Multiple sociologies of the body – not a singular discourse, due to complexity, subjective human experience, social organizations, etc.

American pragmatism as central to understanding symbolic interactionist notions of the body. Pragmatism: “emphasizes human beings as active and creative agents; a human world that both shapes the doings of people and is fashioned by the doings of people; a determined emphasis on how subjectivity, meaning, and consciousness do not exist prior to experience, but are emergent in action and interaction; a grounded examination of practical problems…” ( here 3, reference Reynolds 2003).

Intertwine of body as subject and object – inextricable; embodiment as: “the process by which the object-body is actively experienced, produced, sustained, and/or transformed as a subject-body” (3). “Looking-glass body” (referencing to C.H. Cooley’s looking glass self) understands the body as a reflection of how we imagine interpretations of our body; reflexivity is thus a requirement for embodiment.

The dramaturgical body of Goffman is more than a “peg” on which the self is placed, (as Goffman unfortunately quoted) – but is instead embedded in social practices. “The human body has to be constantly and systematically produced, sustained, and presented in everyday life and therefore the body is best regarded as a potentiality which is realized and actualized through a variety of social regulated activities or practices” (Turner 1984, 24 here 6). Body is had, but body is also actively “done.”

The phenomenological body offers a center for understanding and experience – meanings driven from “here and now” – embodiment as coping with problems in discrete ways that situated within sociocultural milieus. Meaning is not generated, but is embedded within social worlds – however, this reduces the impact of the body’s presence/absence within these experiences. Bodies work to “anchor” us through world, and as modes to process meanings.

The socio-semiotic body (aka Saussurean, structuralist, post-structuralist) can be interpreted several ways – in one where experiences and bodies are erased by omnipotent academic analysis, culture, discourse – which often falls into cultural and linguistic determinism, relegating the body to a reflection of these meanings or experiences. However, for socio-semiotic interactionism – “there is no body without a reflexive and agentic self and there is no self without a reflexive and agentic body” (10). Bodies as a way to present subjectivity to others, but is also judged through interpretation of our own appearance and performance – body as a source of signification, communication.   The body of Structural Semiology, however, uses bodies as carriers of meaning – “sign-vehicles” – bodies become objects, but becomes a symbol to which action can be taken and meaning can be assigned.

The Narrative Body – personhood as a narrative accomplishment (Denzin 1989; Holstein and Gubrium 2000) – using stories that offer meaning, continuity, coherent. Narratives are structured by discourse offered to people, which is then reflected in the meanings and stories told about selves and experiences bodies have.


Calefato, Patrizia. 2004. The Clothed Body. Translated by Lisa Adams. Oxford, NY: Berg.

Denzin, Norman K. 1989. Interpretive Biography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Entwistle, Joanne. 2000. The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Cambrige: Polity.

Guy, Ali, Eileen Green, and Maura Banim. 2003. Through the Wardrobe: Women’s Relationship with their Clothes. Oxford, NY: Berg.

Holstein, James and Jaber Gubrium. 2000. The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in a Postmodern World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Reynolds, Larry. 2003. “Early Representatives.” In Larry Reynolds and Nancy Herman-Kinney (eds.) Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism. Alta Mira. Pp. 59-81.

Synnott, Anthony. 1993. The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society. New York: Routledge.

Turner, Bryan. 1984. The Body and Social Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Virgili, Fabrice and Paul Hodkinson. 2002. Goth: Identity, Style, and Subculture. Oxford: Berg.


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