What can the body tell us about culture?

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  • What can the body tell us about culture?
    • Gender
      • 1. Pedwell (2010): physical embodiment of practices and adoption of habits corresponding to gender roles
        • maintenance beyond personal truth, e.g. gender dysmorphia (Juno Dawson)
          • Judith Butler corroborates: gender is performative
            • "what we take to be an internal essence of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts, posited through the gendered stylisation of the body"
      • 2. Moira Gatens (1996) examines culture-specific "imaginary" bodies created as ideals"
        • highlights roles of m/f bodies in W soc: f = "envelope, vessel or receptacle" home to penis and baby
          • analysis of Freud's post-oepidal view of women = they're inherently incomplete "socially constructed as partial and lacking"
            • this view affects socialisation and habitus of women in sox as self-worth, image, actions, speech, ambitions taught to focus on goal of nuclear family
      • THR4: body can tell us + about cultural ideas of gender through way it is expressed in people
    • Class
      • 1. Judith Okeley (1978) cultivation of elite girls in boarding school: embodying gender culture but adding another POV
        • Outlines methods of skl to produce 'debutante' girls to marry rich and be housewives: "marriage was the ultimate vocation", internalise habitus to exhibit privilege
          • girls involved are elite and separated from everyone lower in "social hierarchy"
            • key embodiment 1: accent, a "sign and a weapon"
            • key embodiment 2: "consciously made to sit, stand, and move in uniform ways"
      • 2. Stephanie Lawler (2005) class is a social marker (UK)
        • have "classed identity" whereby "class is understood [...] as something we are"
        • Example = 'chavs' (council housed and violent)
          • James Delingpole article commented:
            • "The reason Vicky Pollard [Little Britain] caught the public imagination is that she embodies with such fearful accuracy several of the great scourges of contemporary Britain"
              • she's a chav, in velvet tracksuit, high pony, hoop earrings, she embodies all social conceptions about chavs, who form part of the underclass
      • Wider social acceptances regarding behaviour of elites and working classes (chavs) see how body tells us about the concept of class in culture
    • Ritual
      • 1. Robert Hertz: left and right handedness throughout cultural history has exhibited a persistent inequality around exaltation of R hand as pure and condemntion of L hand as polluted
        • idea from Mary Douglas's work on purity and pollution, highlights the use of the body in expression of ritual observance/ belief
      • 2. Joel Inbody: sensing God in Pentecostal ritual expressing it bodily
        • records open embodied participation (pentecostal worship is experience of God through your body) and external effects of emotional connection
          • accounts "gossebumps, tingling, shivers, chills, or heat" experienced by worshippers
      • see impact of ritual on the body and gain insight into cult phenomenon because of  "the way that the body can provide a metaphor of social organisation" (john Blacking)


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