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Societies, Volume 2, Issue 4 (December 2012), Pages 222-387

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Research

Open AccessArticle The Embodied Life Course: Post-ageism or the Renaturalization of Gender?
Societies 2012, 2(4), 222-234; doi:10.3390/soc2040222
Received: 30 August 2012 / Revised: 4 October 2012 / Accepted: 16 October 2012 / Published: 25 October 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (170 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper argues that the sociology of the body must take more account of embodiment as an ongoing process that occurs over the life course, and it suggests that a critical perspective is required that emphasizes the material processes of embodiment by which
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This paper argues that the sociology of the body must take more account of embodiment as an ongoing process that occurs over the life course, and it suggests that a critical perspective is required that emphasizes the material processes of embodiment by which physical changes in age and time are culturally mediated. We take the concept of the embodied life course as a starting point for probing the temporal aspects of bodily life, for exploring the ways in which biological, biographical and socio-historical time intersect, and for grasping the ways that temporality is materialized and mobilized through bodies. Taking the example of the biomedical reconfiguration of sexual function across the life course, we demonstrate how aging bodies have been opened to new forms of intervention that situate them within new understandings of nature and culture. Conclusions reflect on the contradictions of ‘post-ageist’ discourses and practices that promise to liberate bodies from chronological age, while simultaneously re-naturalizing gender in sexed bodies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle Working Stiff(s) on Reality Television during the Great Recession
Societies 2012, 2(4), 235-251; doi:10.3390/soc2040235
Received: 6 August 2012 / Revised: 22 October 2012 / Accepted: 23 October 2012 / Published: 29 October 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (260 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This essay traces some of the narratives and cultural politics of work on reality television after the economic crash of 2008. Specifically, it discusses the emergence of paid labor shows like Ax Men, Black Gold and Coal and a resurgent interest in
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This essay traces some of the narratives and cultural politics of work on reality television after the economic crash of 2008. Specifically, it discusses the emergence of paid labor shows like Ax Men, Black Gold and Coal and a resurgent interest in working bodies at a time when the working class in the US seems all but consigned to the dustbin of history. As an implicit response to the crisis of masculinity during the Great Recession these programs present an imagined revival of manliness through the valorization of muscle work, which can be read in dialectical ways that pivot around the white male body in peril. In Ax Men, Black Gold and Coal, we find not only the return of labor but, moreover, the re-embodiment of value as loggers, roughnecks and miners risk both life and limb to reach company quotas. Paid labor shows, in other words, present a complicated popular pedagogy of late capitalism and the body, one that relies on anachronistic narratives of white masculinity in the workplace to provide an acute critique of expendability of the body and the hardships of physical labor. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle Cultural Models of Bodily Images of Women Teachers
Societies 2012, 2(4), 252-269; doi:10.3390/soc2040252
Received: 3 September 2012 / Revised: 18 October 2012 / Accepted: 23 October 2012 / Published: 31 October 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (471 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Cultural models are simplified images and storylines that encapsulated what is regarded as typical for a social group. Cultural models of teachers include body images of dress, adornment, and comportment, and are useful in examining society’s standards and values. Two participants, Erin and
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Cultural models are simplified images and storylines that encapsulated what is regarded as typical for a social group. Cultural models of teachers include body images of dress, adornment, and comportment, and are useful in examining society’s standards and values. Two participants, Erin and Gabbie (pseudonyms), shared stories about their tattoos, which in the U.S. have historically been seen as a mode of resistance. These tattoos that reflected the teachers’ personal lives were regarded in light of the cultural model of the U.S. teacher, a typically conservatively dressed and coiffed female. According to discourse analysis of the participants’ stories, each teacher’s students did not interpret these tattoos in the same ways. Erin’s students were surprised at the tattoo and interpreted it as a sign she no longer fit the typical teacher mold. Gabbie’s students were not surprised at the tattoo but noted it as confirmatory evidence that she fit the needs of the alternative, nonmainstream school context where the cultural model would be ill suited. This analysis makes a case for more complex interpretations of teachers’ bodies that do not fit the mainstream cultural models of teachers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle The ‘Dys-Appearing’ Body in Doris Lessing’s The Diary of a Good Neighbour and Margaret Forster’s Have the Men Had Enough?
Societies 2012, 2(4), 270-285; doi:10.3390/soc2040270
Received: 20 August 2012 / Revised: 2 November 2012 / Accepted: 2 November 2012 / Published: 8 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (79 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
If the old body is usually read as a synonym of fragility and upcoming illness, even though not the case for most elderly citizens, the reality is that the longer we live, the increased probability of being affected by different illnesses cannot be
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If the old body is usually read as a synonym of fragility and upcoming illness, even though not the case for most elderly citizens, the reality is that the longer we live, the increased probability of being affected by different illnesses cannot be eluded or denied. In Doris Lessing’s The Diary of a Good Neighbour and Margaret Forster’s Have the Men Had Enough? the reader is invited to participate in the day-to-day routines of two aged female protagonists, as well as to empathize with their inner feelings as they go through their last life stage. In fact, their ‘dys-appearing’ bodies, marked by their respective terminal illnesses, force these characters to grow closer to those around them and to accept the help of their families and friends, despite their desire to keep their free will and independence until the very end. The analysis of the two novels within the framework of ageing studies aims to show the contradictions existing between a growing ageing society and the negative cultural connotations of old age in Western society and the need to revise them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle Bodily Practices as Vehicles for Dehumanization in an Institution for Mental Defectives
Societies 2012, 2(4), 286-301; doi:10.3390/soc2040286
Received: 24 August 2012 / Revised: 7 November 2012 / Accepted: 8 November 2012 / Published: 15 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (797 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article analyzes the processes of dehumanization that occurred in the Michener Center, a total institution for the purported care and training of people deemed to be mental defectives[1] that operated in Alberta, Canada. I report on qualitative interviews with 22 survivors, three
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This article analyzes the processes of dehumanization that occurred in the Michener Center, a total institution for the purported care and training of people deemed to be mental defectives[1] that operated in Alberta, Canada. I report on qualitative interviews with 22 survivors, three ex-workers, and the institutional archival record, drawing out the ways that dehumanization was accomplished through bodily means and the construction of embodied otherness along several axes. First, inmates’ bodies were erased or debased as unruly matter out of place that disturbed the order of rational modernity, a move that meant inmates were not seen as deserving or even requiring of normal human consideration. Spatial practices within the institution included panopticism and isolation, constructing inmates as not only docile but as unworthy of contact and interaction. Dehumanization was also seen as necessary to and facilitative of patient care; to produce inmates as subhuman permitted efficiency, but also neglect and abuse. Finally, practices of hygiene and sequestering the polluting bodies of those deemed mentally defective sustained and justified dehumanization. These practices had profound effects for inmates and also for those charged with caring for them.[1] This was the terminology used to describe people deemed to have intellectual disabilities during much of the 20th century in the West. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle Disability as Microcosm: the Boundaries of the Human Body
Societies 2012, 2(4), 302-316; doi:10.3390/soc2040302
Received: 20 August 2012 / Revised: 1 November 2012 / Accepted: 5 November 2012 / Published: 19 November 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (83 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper, we query the legitimacy of the atypical body for membership, quasi-membership, or exclusion from the category of human. Geneticized, branded, and designed as not normal, undesirable, and in need of change, embodied disablement can provide an important but circumvented analysis
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In this paper, we query the legitimacy of the atypical body for membership, quasi-membership, or exclusion from the category of human. Geneticized, branded, and designed as not normal, undesirable, and in need of change, embodied disablement can provide an important but circumvented analysis of the explicit and implicit nature of the legitimate human body, its symbolism, and responses that such bodies elicit from diverse local through global social and cultural entities. Building on and synthesizing historical and current work in the sociology of the body, in disability studies, in cyborg and post-human studies, this paper begins to ask questions about the criteria for human embodiment that are violated by interpretations of disability and then met with a range of responses from body revision to denial of the viability of life. Given the nascent emergence of this important topic, this paper chronicles the theory, questions and experiences that have provoked questions and posited the need for more substantive theory development and verification. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation in Derrida’s Final Seminar
Societies 2012, 2(4), 317-331; doi:10.3390/soc2040317
Received: 8 October 2012 / Revised: 9 November 2012 / Accepted: 12 November 2012 / Published: 20 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (75 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heidegger’s 1929–1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—the two books at the center
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In the Third Session of his seminar The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 2, Jacques Derrida turns from a close reading of Heidegger’s 1929–1930 seminar on The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe—the two books at the center of the seminar—to the question of what it means for a large and growing number of people in the Western world to have to decide, in a seemingly sovereign fashion, about how their bodies are to be treated after their deaths, that is, whether they are to be buried or cremated. This question marks a rather surprising turn to the present—even the autobiographical—in the seminar. This essay follows Derrida’s treatment of the question in the rest of the seminar. It considers, first, what Derrida calls the phantasms attendant upon all speculations regarding this supposedly binary alternative between inhumation and creation and then what this alternative might tell us about Greco-European modernity and certain modern conceptions of the subject and the subject’s putative autonomy and sovereignty over its life, its body, and its remains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle The Politics of Responsible Sovereigns
Societies 2012, 2(4), 332-344; doi:10.3390/soc2040332
Received: 23 September 2012 / Revised: 17 November 2012 / Accepted: 20 November 2012 / Published: 23 November 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (80 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
How might one read a collection of transcriptions—such as The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 1—that exemplifies how to read other texts deconstructively? In the spirit of Derrida’s text, a response to this question remains radically undecided; however, it certainly does not
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How might one read a collection of transcriptions—such as The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume 1—that exemplifies how to read other texts deconstructively? In the spirit of Derrida’s text, a response to this question remains radically undecided; however, it certainly does not imply the absence of exegesis through the course of a particular reading. On the contrary, the event of a reading fixes itself out of specific interpretative horizons and traces of past understandings. In what follows, my exegesis is contoured by past readings that have engaged diverse phenomenological and existential perspectives declining commonsense invitations to relay fixed, singular meanings that align with the purportedly real meanings and/or intentions of the author. Following a partial suspension of that familiar angle, I propose an epoche of sorts. Provoked by Derrida’s text, I shall reorder words into new assemblies that appear on the following pages, and that surface from my situated readings of Derrida’s deconstructive renderings of other writings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Derrida Contra Agamben: Sovereignty, Biopower, History
Societies 2012, 2(4), 345-356; doi:10.3390/soc2040345
Received: 30 September 2012 / Revised: 15 November 2012 / Accepted: 19 November 2012 / Published: 5 December 2012
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Abstract
This essay is concerned with criticisms of Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical theory of sovereignty that are developed by Jacques Derrida in his final seminar titled The Beast and the Sovereign (2009). The implicit interlocutor for much of the seminar is theories of biopolitics. However,
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This essay is concerned with criticisms of Giorgio Agamben’s biopolitical theory of sovereignty that are developed by Jacques Derrida in his final seminar titled The Beast and the Sovereign (2009). The implicit interlocutor for much of the seminar is theories of biopolitics. However, when these theories are addressed explicitly, it is through the work of Agamben. The article proceeds first with a brief account of the main issues that preoccupy Derrida in the seminar. In general, these relate to conceptualizing sovereignty and its relationship to the division between human and animal. The second section introduces the criticisms of Agamben, which are articulated initially in terms of the latter’s tendency to declare the origin of ideas and concepts. The third section outlines some central aspects of Agamben’s theory that are pertinent for evaluating Derrida’s criticisms. The fourth section turns to the conceptual and textual basis for the criticisms, which involve a way of thinking history and an interpretation of Aristotle. The final section of the paper extrapolates the implications of Derrida’s criticisms for thinking sovereignty and its future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle Deconstructing the Leviathan: Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign
Societies 2012, 2(4), 357-371; doi:10.3390/soc2040357
Received: 17 September 2012 / Revised: 4 December 2012 / Accepted: 5 December 2012 / Published: 11 December 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (94 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Derrida’s The Beast & the Sovereign, volume I, explores the contradictory appearance of animals in political discourse. Sometimes, as he points out, political man and the sovereign state appear in the form of an animal and, at other times, as superior to
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Derrida’s The Beast & the Sovereign, volume I, explores the contradictory appearance of animals in political discourse. Sometimes, as he points out, political man and the sovereign state appear in the form of an animal and, at other times, as superior to animals of which he is the master. In session two of the Seminar, the main focus of this essay, Derrida explores the ‘origin’ of this contradictory logic inter alia with reference to animal fables which he contends draw on unconscious forces in their invocation of images. They pretend to make known something that cannot be the object of knowledge. In the same vein, Derrida shows how Hobbes’s Leviathan and sovereignty itself are constructed and maintained through an uncanny fear, a fear not in the first place of one’s fellow man, but of the wolf within the self, i.e., the drive to self-destruction. It is the repression of this wolf, Derrida suggests, which leads to the further contradictory logic (in Hobbes) of excluding both beast and God from the covenant whilst maintaining God as the model of sovereignty. God, in other words, ‘is’ the beast repressed and can therefore hardly serve as the foundation of sovereignty. The self, and ultimately sovereignty, it can be said in view of Derrida’s analysis, is never purely present to itself but instead arrives at itself by way of the ‘binding’ of unconscious forces. Sovereignty in this way ultimately shows itself to be divisible. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)
Open AccessArticle “Nothing Exists Except an Earthenware Pot”: Resisting Sovereignty on Robinson’s Island
Societies 2012, 2(4), 372-387; doi:10.3390/soc2040372
Received: 16 September 2012 / Revised: 13 December 2012 / Accepted: 13 December 2012 / Published: 18 December 2012
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Abstract
In this essay I would like to focus on “The Beast and the Sovereign”—and especially the Second Volume—as being something of an exception to Derrida’s usual hesitations about sovereignty. In other works, such as “Rogues”, Derrida displays a deep ambivalence about sovereignty insofar
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In this essay I would like to focus on “The Beast and the Sovereign”—and especially the Second Volume—as being something of an exception to Derrida’s usual hesitations about sovereignty. In other works, such as “Rogues”, Derrida displays a deep ambivalence about sovereignty insofar as for all of his condemnation of sovereign authority, he fears that what might replace it could be even worse (and, to be fair, he also sees positive aspects of sovereignty as well). In “The Beast and the Sovereign,” we find evidence of this ambivalence as well but here, Derrida comes a bit closer to the kind of position advocated by Walter Benjamin wherein sovereignty is an idolatrous practice of politics one which must not be eliminated so much as subverted. In particular, I focus on Derrida’s reading in Volume II of “Robinson Crusoe” as a text that both founds the sovereign subject and subverts it (by revealing its vulnerability, its fictional nature). In looking at how the book disappoints as much as it answers sovereign phantasms of authority and unity, I argue that Derrida transfers his own ambivalence about sovereignty to sovereignty itself, subverting and rupturing its central tenets in the process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Of Beasts, Sovereigns and Societies)

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