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ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE BODY

Lecturer: Steven Van Wolputte (funny).


- Body as social, political, economic, cultural phenomenon.
Two kinds of people? Male/female? Oh, it’s not a binary.
Nature linked often with feminity. Something that needs to be mastered by civilization. Latin
America as well.
- As a node in a network.
- You are a node between a relationship between two people. A node in a network of
relationships (between people, animals). With what do you identify? How you dress?
“Taste” changes. You are made by the things that are around you. The contacts.
- As an assembly.
Pircings, prostetics (glasses), means of transport. You decide where to go, what to
do. All those objects come part of your body. You dress according to certain
conventions. Cellphone: your network is in there. Global stuff. ARGENTINA EL
MAYOR EXPORTADOR DE LITIO DEL MUNDO. WTF. Technological inventions.
This specific year: interplay between bodiliness, intimacy, and change (social, political,
economic).
Individual (dividual). Something that can’t be divided any further. A dividual is you in that
network, the things that can be divided in you but that are still you.
We can create ourself up to some point.
How that bodyness (the materiality of your being), your particularity (born in a place, period).
How this bodyness connects with economic, social change.
Women had to be re-domesticated. Cookery programmes (male cookers, they tell woman
how to cook). What a good wife looks like.

IF YOU WANT YOU CAN READ:


- Joyrce, r. (2005) Archeology f the body. Annual Review of Anthropology, 34, 139-
158.
- Van Wolputte, s. (2004). Hang on to your self: of bodies, embodiment, and selves.
Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 251-269.

Intimacy
- Field of relations, friendship, kinship, family, love, relatedness.
ex: you dont expect anything from friends, in other places they support you
financially. It changes from place to place and year to year. How you interpret all this
topics, it differs from people to people.
- The practices it implies: eating, having sex, getting drunk together.
- All these ideas mean something different in different times and places (friendship,
love).
- The field of bodiliness and intimacy across the globe is subject to far-reaching
changes.
- The domain where contemporary technology, high mobility, urbanization,
globalization, have the strongest impact. Control of you. Goverment has control. How
do they engage in relationships to otehr, how they feel/think about themselves?
- Successful = beauty standards. Tan, hairstyle, body trained, means you are
successful. Economic success. Respect and self-respect. Being successful, means
you are more beautiful.
AIMS
- Confort stereotypes regarding culture, bodiliness and sexuality with empirial
evidence.
You start to perceive before you are born. Before you are conscious of this
experiences. “Lucky to be living in country, a relatively free country. You have
freedom”. The sources are in the outside word.
- Reconnaissance of intersection of intimacy-social change.
Ex. obstetrics in Congo
(https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7260-9),
globalized image of “romantic” or companionate love (soap-operas), the impact of
technology on the understanding and practice of intimacy (long-distance parenting).
- Global sexualities.

ORGANIZATION
- Extended case study approach. From a particular case, what can we learn in regard
on a theory, on how we live here the body.
- He wants to make us think: how society treats our bodies?
- Empirical necessity (complexity), particularist stance, cultural/historical variety,
comparative perspective.
- Open-book exam. 3 questions. Option of replacing one with a bried scientific essay
(1000 words)..
- Master the main texts: main arguments, line of thought/reasoning, understand its
assumptions, master its terminology, relate them to the lectures.

1. The social body. How it’s a metaphor on how people organize its society. The world
like a body.
2. Anthropology of the senses. Fenomenal body: how people experience things. Food,
advertisment.
3. Negotiating feminity and masculinity. What is a father, mother, brother, sister?
4. Kinship and relatedness.
5. Sexualities and social change.
6. Intimacy, sex and violence.
7. Love, sex, and globalization.
8. Intimacy and commodification.
9. Technology.
10. Gender, sexuality and technology.
11. Cyborgs. Sexuality, anxiety, utopias.
12. Epilogue.

1THE SOCIAL BODY


He shows the Reinassense guy that has 4 legs and 4 arms = the ideal of body. Ideal
projection of human kind. By this standard is what everything is measured. Post-humanism
says that the enviroments, things, animals also play a rol in making us who we are (but this
is further in the course). White heterosexual man. Standard of how everything should be.

Body, society, cosmos.


Ancestors.
Mary Douglas: the natural and social body. The egg and the sperm.
Terence Turner: social skin.
The mindful body.
Having and being a body.
Bodiliness.
Representation, something that can be measured, and called by its perfect dimensions.

Having a body is looking at it, putting stuff in it, doing things with it.
The history of the body in A is a history of how one thinks about self, subject, society. Body
becomes a symbol to think about society.
Role of woman = needed to be domesticated, as nature that needed to be cultured.
Colonization = territoried had to be ripped open. Men that lived there considered inferiors.
Social body is an object of representation. What you find in magazines/tv
shows/newspapers. Body symbol to think about society (HE ALREADY SAID THIS
SEVERAL TIMES). Man associated with upper parts of the body, woman with lowers parts.
We are looking at the Jardin de las Delicias, de El Bosco. If you surronder yourself to
delights, sex and food, you’ll end up there, at hell. Everything related with excess, you’ll
suffer forever. Highly moralising (contrary to what people see in the painting).
Meaning of the body exceeds the biological or physical.

Africa. House where you are born. Built by woman. East of the village, where life comes.
House as a mother. “We share the same mother”. African metaphors. East and West, South
and North = world as giant body. Life is a journey fro, East to West. East where you are
born, West where you die.
Words are performative.

A few ancestors. Functionalist/structuralist paradigm.


- society is an organism, organized whole with different interdependent parts.
Families, stable bounds. Family organizes reproduction. Religion organizes.
- the functionalist body refers to the materiality of a well-built (healthy) machine.
- reproduction is a function each society needs to fulfill.
- must be rules on whom you can have sex with.
- institutions that set what is natural (hetero) and social aceptable (not incest).

Ex: B. Malinowski (1929) - the sexual life of savages in north-western melanesia.


Anthropologyst. “You have to stay with them , learn their culture, not just make questions”.
- goal: demostrate that savage society is much like western society.
- focus on social organization of sexuality (family, courtship, raising kids)
- oedipus complex is not universal.
- they don’t recognize the biological father. Not part of the family. Inheritance is being
transmited by the woman. Man most involved with the education of the child is the
brother of your mother.
Ex. Marcell Mauss - les techiniques du corps.
- body main instrument to create identity.
- no natural behaviour, always learnt, always acquired.
- body most natural instrument of humans.

Ex. Claude Levi-Strauss - structures elementaires de la parenté


- one universal feature of each society is the prohibition of incest.
- this forces social groups to exchange women. This social exchange is the basis of
society. The incest taboo has nothing to do with biology.

Ex. Norbert Elias - the civilization process.


- we don’t usually eat with hands - “civilization process” - bourgeois in the cities. Social
class dynamics (sugar now for poor, in the past only for rich people).

Ex. Victor Turner


- emphasized on how people FEEL about stuff. Next to an ideological pole, there is an
erotic pole (sexuality, subconscious, sensuous).

Ex. Blacking (ed) - the anthropology of the body (1977).


- conference 1975 - first collective effort to focus on human body.
- trying to bridge the gap between individual-aggregate, nature-culture, biology-
sociology.

In Natural Symbols - Mary Douglas (1978) distinguishes a natural body and a social body:
- each body is a physical entity. Also a representation. This representation is the social
body. How a group of people thinks the human body.
- Himba conception (female and male semen = equal important).
- body medium of expression (controlled through the social system). Your show your
class in your body. Car as part of the body. Jewerly.
- this system of values and sanctions is the other dimension of the social body. You
“embody” conventions of your society. Himba (convention about how they go to
sleep, woman in the back, children in the middle, man in first term).
How you SHAPE your body. He is talking about HAIR (different hairstyles for different
ages).
- how we eat 3 times a day (industrial convention). Luxury nowadays.
- natural and social body constitute different realms of experience. The physical is
experienced in social and the social experienced in the physical.
- her distinction echoes a dichotomy (body-min, nature-society).
- the physical is at the disposal of the mind.
- body as a vehicle (HAVING a body). You make yourself present, it’s a type of
presentation.
- EXAMPLES:
sex, gender.
race is not a biological notion: races do not exist, the human species if one of the few
that have only one race.
bodies are political: make part of power structures, are object of domination, but also
a tool ofresilience and resistance.
- applying mary douglas: the egg and the sperm (martin, 2007).
human body tool to think, represent, symbolize society.
both become interrelated metaphors.
how people talk about the body reflects their cultural values, world view, society.

- The social skin (Turner 1980)


Refers to dress, bodily adornments, hairstyle, make-up, scarifications, body-paint.
Bathing the body, after-death embalming it.
Nudity as well (when we undress, why) distinguish the body-self from others.
Poverty also has a dress-code.
Going to the gym (you look sucessful, sexual attraction).
ECONOMIC ASPECT (not everyone can make this decisios).
Through your skin you reflect and REBEL. You negotiate this values. You don’t have
to apply to certain aspects, you can deviate from them.

- The mindful body (Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margharet Lock, 1987)


They distinguish 3 bodies.

- the body politic


Relationship is also political.
Body is an artifact of social and political control, a tool or weapon of disciplination,
domestication, subjection, resistance (Foucault).
example of how in an african place they use HAIR to express stuff. Hairstyles
express sexual and reproductive meanings.

25/2
2. The body and embodiment
How we think what we know that we know.
Last week:
- different bodies:
- physical, natural body: the material infrastructure of our being-in-the-world,
precondition of being: situatedness in space and time.
- social body: reflection of society (douglas); see social skin as “canvas of
society” (terence turner).
- body politic: reflection of power relationships (nancy scheper-hughes and
margareth lock).

Body as “social body” implies that what you are is not the result of a psychological or
biological essence. The source of who/what we are is OUTSIDE us. We acquire a body.
“The source of you is external to you”. Sources of self and itentity are ex-centric, localized
away from the centre. “Expectations people have on you, your experiences, your existence
in this particular word, how you react”.
There is way more than the social body: we have talked how we HAVE a body (meaning that
we can do things with it, put things in it, instrument to express identity and ourself; body as
an object). Primary tool to EXPRESS (represent). Body makes (and sometimes breaks)
identity, self and belonging. Ex: rituals (communion, marriage), torture.
We also ARE a body: we can never distance ourselves completely from our body and bodily
situatedness; we are always somewhere, sometime, somebody. We can’t think outside the
body. We cannot but relate to the world through our body.
Body is never just an object, it always-already also is the agent, or subject.
- body as representation: body as object, instrument.
- the body as presentation: body as subject, agent.

Bodiliness: fact that we are particular, situated in time and space, we experience physical
limitations. Implies technology: cars, windows, skiing, and material culture (things): the
material world.
Body is the very ground of culture and self, where culture is “born”.

Social phenomenology
studies phenomena, “experiences”: sensuous experience, rather than the discourse on
experience. The body-subject is driven by a “will to experience”.
The experience is sensuous, bodily: it is particularistic, because one also has to take
position. You always look from a certain perspective.
Danger is solipsism: the illusion that an individual is a self-contained unit, and the worlds is a
mere projection of the human mind.
Social phenomenology (or post-phenomenology)
Intersubjectivity of experience: it’s not just individual: it is subjective, but this subjectivity is
“shared” or social. INTERSUBJECTIVE. Because the body exists, it experiences: always
already part of a more encompassing culture: bodily existence always presupposes a
relationship between 2 people (parents).
What we consider individual/subjective experiences, actually are social ones, intersubjective
experiences. Individual is not subjective, experience is inherently social.
The important is the praxis, what people do and how they do, how they relate to others (not
the discourse, not what they say they do).

Embodiment
Meaning is practical, not confined to discourse, not your mind/emotions that get a body, it is
more fundamental than that: it is the world turned body or the body turned into world.
Meaning not just symbolical but also experiential.
- Ex: training the nose: senses are acquired in interaction. You train to differentiate
differents smells.
- Ex. “speaking tongues”: spirits/gods divines speaking through their followers. Doesn’t
make any sense for us because we ain’t divine, gurrrrrl.
- “faith healing”: experience it as truth, they FEEL better, it does have an impact!
Embodimt is an active process of getting oriented in the world: process of ingestion,
digestion, egestion. This process sometimes fails: we get lost.
Process of embodiment is not fixed, or determined (not the same as “socialisation”: it is one
directional). Unficity of embodiment enables the self to engage in new relationships, allows
articulation with others. Not one directional, active engagement.
This intersubjectivity is an intercoporeality: exchange between bodies. This multiplicity
enables the self to engage in the world: to acquire a body (through instruments, scientific
instruments).
Body resists the body of things (a chair is a body, in a sense). Body is not given, you don’t
make it, it0s constitute through your interaction.
- EX: music. Materiality of instrument, playing techniques; requires knowledge
(practical); requires structure (staying in tune + improvization) (habitus)
- example of articulation: you become a musician through the instrument you play, you
acquire a musicking body (wich also has its effects on your physicality).
Main question is not what is self: it is how do people CREATE/MANTAIN/UNMAKE a sense
of self and belonging: analytical emphasis on process, not on result.

Case Study: Culture and the senses (Anlo-Exe, Togo/Ghana).


- PITCH: culture shapes the senses, senses shape culture.
- Ex. feral children. Mogwli.
We priorize vision in our cultural, wich is individual; in some cultures they prioritize the
hearing, wich is more social: presupones another person.

3.3
NEGOTIATING FEMININITY AND MASCULINITY (eating and drinking)
Food associate with sex.
Speciality beers related with class.
Upper class always used to eat wine.
Beer for lower classes. Woman not supposed to drink beers.
Strong beer = masculinity.

Gender roles, identity, practices are constructed.


They are a result of socialization. Continuously negotiated between women and men.
(Brandes’ text)
Renegotiation can be quite violence. On a very daily-basis.

Food and foodways:


- primarily works through the senses, apart from fulfilling physical needs.
- hunger can also be a political condition; it even can be seen as a metaphysical
condition.
- diet as social practiceS: what, where, with who, how you eat.

Construction/negotiation of boundaries (public-private, self-other), implying both constraints


and agency. Underline the importance of practice as opposed to discourse. Underline the
sensuousness/bodiliness of daily social life and experience. The daily act of eating has wider
implications.

Diet as a social practice


Food and foodways mirror society in its most intimate form, make/unmake society through
intimicy. In the food you see inequalities at work.
Food reproduces existing relationships of power - hegemony, but also subvert them.
Crucial symbol/metaphor of self and identity: important entry into how people practice culture
and society.
Fast food associated with lower classes.

Ex. Counihan (1992) on food rules in the US.


- students keeping food journals: reveal concerns about choice, freedom
- within a context/ideology of thinness and self-control (the ability to deny appetite,
suffer hunger, abstain from calorie-rich foods): middle classes decide what lower
classes are supposed to eat (moral judgement), men decide what woman eat.

Self-control is seen as a sign and road towards personal achievement and success.
There is also a place and time for breaching those rules (holidays).
Food is extremely malleable: excellent vehicle for ideology.
Based on sensuous qualities of food.
Or based on cultural values, on its provenance.

Ex. Food, power and female identity (Counihan 1999)


He studies Italian culture.
- eating together is a heart of social relations; economic activity.
- food interesting entry into the way people cross-breed and re-invent different
traditions: curry, chinese take-away, french-belgian fries.
- in traditional italian society the kitchen was a female space. Food is important for
concept of herself.
- women desire frustrated: cannot take up the traditional role. Contradiction between
expectation of equality and their own role in perpetuating the inequality they
themselves suffer from. Women are supposed to cook and now have a full-time job, if
not they are bad spouses.
- Food becomes a source of frustration and feeling of inadequacy and becomes less
important to female identity.

After the wars, cooking books become popular. Women shouldn’t care about war, they
should be focus on the kitchen.

Ex. Everyday cooking in Mexico (Adapon 2008)


Who does the cooking? System of action. Way of inducing social change. To improve
women’s role in society = not only about legislation, but the daily acts, the division of labours
in the house.
Cooking as an exchange: done for somebody.
These sensory qualities (condimento de amor) makes food such a powerful powerfull
metaphor of social practices.
Ex. chili is synonym with both sauce and with penis. ???
Food metaphors are used to talk about sex and desire.
Everyday cooking/eating: embodying intimacy, loyalty.

Ex. Africa: milking is done by woman. You have to cover your hands (sign of respect), in a
way similar to giving birth. Milking associated with ancestors.

Mexico: Manhood, drink and abstinenece


Men who enter the Alcoholics Anonymous are forced to question their gender identity.
When in AA, men have to renegotiate the way they define their manhood.
Hence: alternative (sometimes contradictory) ways of manifestating manhood:
- real man do not drink
- new sexual division of labour, new manifestation of sexuality
- machismo in company of male friends.
Food and sex are among the most regulated domains; but also means that have the most
powerful potential for change.