14209 Body and Culture 1

Credits: 3 graduate credits in Cultural Studies

Prerequisites: Two of the following courses: Society, Culture and Representation; Theories and Approaches in Cultural Studies; Anthropological and Sociological Approaches to Cultural Studies; Multiculturalism in Israel

The course is based on a reader edited by Dafna Hirsch.

The realization that the human body is not only a biological entity, but also a socio-cultural and historical product, has long been accepted in the humanities and social sciences. Different scholars, however, conceptualize the relations between “body,” “society,” and “culture” in very different ways. In general, we can distinguish between those approaches that emphasize the cultural construction of the body, in which the body is often conceptualized as the passive product of cultural impositions, and approaches that focus on a dynamic, active and interactive body, and sometimes even view the body itself as an active agent in shaping social action. Moreover, the term “body” often signifies different things in different studies: some focus on perceptions and representations of the body; others study the sentient or the active body – gestures, practices and interactions; yet others consider the ways in which the borders of the body are marked and disciplined.

The course examines the scholarly discussion on the body: the major approaches to studying the body as a socio-cultural product, their main advantages and problems, and the central issues they examine.

Topics: Approaches to the body as a research object: bodily techniques, the symbolic approach, body and discourse, phenomenology, interaction and physical communication, practice, history, psychoanalysis. Body perceptions and images: the cultural construction of the biological body; the racialized body; the “defective” body; underweight and overweight. The body and other materials: clothing; food; technology; body, room, world. The inculcation and spread of physical repertoires: “the modern body”: rationalization, discipline, self-control; how are gestures learned; the body and nationalism; cultural contacts and civilizing projects. The body of the self: shaping the body and constructing identity and value.

1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required.