Special Issue "Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society"

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A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2012)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Jacqueline Low (Website)

Department of Sociology, Carleton Hall, Room 132, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5A3, Canada
Fax: +1 506 453 4659
Interests: sociology of health; illness; health policy and health care; in particular chronic illness; disability; and alternative and complementary therapies; deviant behavior; qualitative research methods; sociology of the body
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Claudia Malacrida (Website)

Department of Sociology, University of Lethbridge, UHall A-890, 4401 University Drive Lethbridge, Alberta Canada T1K 3M4
Fax: +1 403 329-2085
Interests: sociology of the body; motherhood; disability; policy; eugenics and reproductive knowledge production; all as forms of social control

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue follows the ISA World Forum on "The Body in the Social Sciences" to be held in Buenos Aries Aug 1-4, 2012 (http://www.isa-sociology.org/buenos-aires-2012/rc/rc.php?n=RC54), but is also open to submissions of papers not presented at the Forum. This special issue focuses on the interconnectedness of the body and society, thus it will include works that explore how the body is shaped by and constrained through socio-cultural processes, as well as those that focus on how bodies in action affect the societies in which they operate. As Goffman (1972) pointed out in his seminal presidential address to the American Sociological Association, "The Interaction Order," we cannot act without our bodies, meaning sociology must account for the body.

Moreover, accounting for the body and its interconnectedness with society gives rise to recurring debates concerning whether or not a true sociology of the body requires a recasting of sociological theory. Recent sociological writing on the body by such writers as Chris Shilling, Bryan Turner, Arthur Frank, Margaret Shildrick, and Mike Featherstone (to name a few) does more than merely mark out a substantive area for the body that leaves traditional sociological perspectives unchallenged. Rather, this body of work has made monumental inroads in reinserting the body into sociological research and bridging that work into a vigorous theory of the sociological body and of embodied sociology. In this work, the classic works of Goffman and Foucault have been re-examined for their embodied perspectives, the contributions of feminist scholars have been brought into a sociological framing of the body, and the implications of consumerism, aging populations, high modernity and postmodernity have been incorporated into a burgeoning sociological examination of the body. Current scholarship continues working towards linking corporeal experience to social processes, systems, and structures, permitting sociologists of the body to understand the workings of power, interactions between social actors, and the ways that social norms and roles operate in nuanced and analytically powerful ways.

This special issue invites papers that further develop these theories and sociological understandings of the body. We are particularly interested in papers that explore the connections between the lived body and the body as a set of social experiences, insights into the body as a site of social control, and examinations of the body as a vehicle for the expression and consumption of culture.

Dr. Jacqueline Low
Prof. Dr. Claudia Malacrida
Guest Editors

Keywords

  • body
  • social body
  • embodiment
  • corporeality
  • lived body
  • social theory and the body
  • social control of the body

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Negotiating Deaf Bodies and Corporeal Experiences: The Cybernetic Deaf Subject
Societies 2013, 3(2), 170-185; doi:10.3390/soc3020170
Received: 26 February 2013 / Revised: 29 March 2013 / Accepted: 1 April 2013 / Published: 15 April 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (183 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Deaf people negotiate their embodiment through corporeal experiences to provide a perception of what it means to be human. Some deaf people search for a framework where being deaf is human, not a disability. Other deaf people experience their deafness as a [...] Read more.
Deaf people negotiate their embodiment through corporeal experiences to provide a perception of what it means to be human. Some deaf people search for a framework where being deaf is human, not a disability. Other deaf people experience their deafness as a disability and use technology as a means to negotiate their embodiment and experiences. The role of technology or cybernetics, particularly cochlear implants, for the deaf will be examined as a way to understand cultural identities and diverse ideological perspectives concerning what it means to be deaf and normal. Then, this paper focuses on social constructed ‘bodies’ for the deaf using embodied theory and action as a part of a theoretical framework to showcase theoretical ideas and actualities of some deaf people’s lives and experiences. These discussions are ways to open dialogues and collaborative inquiries on larger important issues such as what it means to be deaf and, in essence, human. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle From Zoomers to Geezerade: Representations of the Aging Body in Ageist and Consumerist Society
Societies 2013, 3(1), 52-65; doi:10.3390/soc3010052
Received: 31 August 2012 / Revised: 17 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 December 2012 / Published: 10 January 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (188 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper is based on an analysis of representations of seniors in the media. In particular, we examine images of the bodies of seniors in the advertising campaigns promoting a product called Geezerade sold in Circle K convenience stores in the Atlantic [...] Read more.
This paper is based on an analysis of representations of seniors in the media. In particular, we examine images of the bodies of seniors in the advertising campaigns promoting a product called Geezerade sold in Circle K convenience stores in the Atlantic provinces of Canada in the summer of 2011. We contrast these with images of seniors in the Canadian magazine Zoomer, formally CARP magazine, a magazine published by the Canadian Association of Retired People, a seniors advocacy organization. Following Goffman’s arguments in his seminal presidential address to the American Sociological Association, “the Interaction Order”, we take the position in this analysis that the body does not determine social practices but none-the-less the body is the sign vesicle that enables interaction. Concomitant however, while the images of bodies we see in the media do not determine the signs given and given off via bodily presentation, they none-the-less provide us with the categories by which we interpret those signs. We conclude that the images in the Geezerade campaign and Zoomer magazine represent a binary model of images of seniors that reflects ageist and classist assumptions about the bodies of seniors. Such a model limits the categories through which we understand the aging body and fails to account for the diversity of seniors’ bodies in society. 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 1 | 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 [...] Read more.
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 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, [...] Read more.
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 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 [...] Read more.
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 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 [...] Read more.
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 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 [...] Read more.
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 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 [...] Read more.
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 Youth for Sale: Using Critical Disability Perspectives to Examine the Embodiment of ‘Youth’
Societies 2012, 2(3), 195-209; doi:10.3390/soc2030195
Received: 26 October 2011 / Revised: 22 August 2012 / Accepted: 30 August 2012 / Published: 13 September 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (308 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
‘Youth’ is more complicated than an age-bound period of life; although implicitly paired with developmentalism, youth is surrounded by contradictory discourses. In other work [1], I have asserted that young people are demonized as risky and rebellious, whilst simultaneously criticized for being [...] Read more.
‘Youth’ is more complicated than an age-bound period of life; although implicitly paired with developmentalism, youth is surrounded by contradictory discourses. In other work [1], I have asserted that young people are demonized as risky and rebellious, whilst simultaneously criticized for being lazy and apathetic; two intertwining, yet conflicting discourses meaning that young people’s here-and-now experiences take a backseat to a focus on reaching idealized, neoliberal adulthood [2]. Critical examination of adulthood ideals, however, shows us that ‘youthfulness’ is itself presented as a goal of adulthood [3–5], as there is a desire, as adults, to remain forever young [6]. As Blatterer puts it, the ideal is to be “adult and youthful but not adolescent” ([3], p. 74). This paper attempts to untangle some of the youth/adult confusion by asking how the aspiration/expectation of a youthful body plays out in the embodied lives of young dis/abled people. To do this, I use a feminist-disability lens to consider youth in an abstracted form, not as a life-stage, but as the end goal of an aesthetic project of the self that we are all (to differing degrees) encouraged to set out upon. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessArticle The Place of Disgust: Disability, Class and Gender in Spaces of Workfare
Societies 2012, 2(3), 139-156; doi:10.3390/soc2030139
Received: 29 November 2011 / Revised: 21 August 2012 / Accepted: 23 August 2012 / Published: 12 September 2012
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (236 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper explores the role of disgust in mediating disabled women's experience of workfare in the Australian state. As global social policy has been restructured along neoliberal lines in Western nations, the notion of ‘workfare’ has been widely promulgated. This paper draws [...] Read more.
This paper explores the role of disgust in mediating disabled women's experience of workfare in the Australian state. As global social policy has been restructured along neoliberal lines in Western nations, the notion of ‘workfare’ has been widely promulgated. This paper draws on nine case studies from across Australia to explore how this has resulted in disabled women being coerced to participate in a range of workfare programs that are highly bureaucratised, sanitised and moralised. The findings suggest that with the advent of Australian neoliberal welfare reform, some disabled women are increasingly framed in negative affective terms. A primary emotion that appears to govern disabled women forced to participate in Australian neoliberal workfare programs is disgust. The experience of the participants interviewed for this study suggests that the naming of them in negative emotional terms requires disabled women to perform a respectable unruly corporeality to ensure that they gain and maintain access to a range of services and supports, which are vital to their wellbeing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)

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Open AccessIntroduction Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society
Societies 2013, 3(3), 293-297; doi:10.3390/soc3030293
Received: 27 June 2013 / Accepted: 16 July 2013 / Published: 23 July 2013
PDF Full-text (86 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In 2010 Jacqueline Low was invited to become an editorial board member of the then new online open-access journal Societies. In that same year, Claudia Malacrida was approached to organize a session on the sociology of the body at the 2012 [...] Read more.
In 2010 Jacqueline Low was invited to become an editorial board member of the then new online open-access journal Societies. In that same year, Claudia Malacrida was approached to organize a session on the sociology of the body at the 2012 International Sociological Association (ISA) meetings in Buenos Aries. When the call came in 2011 from Societies for editorial board members to propose topics for special issues of the journal, it was a natural and fortuitous timing of events and we undertook to co-edit this special issue based, in part, on papers from the conference. Because of our shared history of writing about social aspects of the body, we were convinced that both the conference and the journal papers would produce interesting and important advancements in a sub-discipline that is making exciting contributions beyond its borders to social theory and empirical sociological work. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)
Open AccessAfterword Afterword: Embodiment, Social Order, and the Classification of Humans as Waste
Societies 2013, 3(3), 261-265; doi:10.3390/soc3030261
Received: 7 June 2013 / Accepted: 17 June 2013 / Published: 24 June 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (132 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The rise of body studies has, since its development in the early 1980s, been characterized by a resilience and creativity that shows no signs of abating. There are various reasons for this success, but two are especially worthy of note. Socially informed [...] Read more.
The rise of body studies has, since its development in the early 1980s, been characterized by a resilience and creativity that shows no signs of abating. There are various reasons for this success, but two are especially worthy of note. Socially informed studies of the materialities, capacities and connectedness of body subjects have maintained their capacity to advance disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary work on the subject into new agendas [1,2]. Additionally, emerging studies in the field continue to facilitate a sustained interrogation of those residual categories that have helped to define, but also restrict, the reach and ambition of sociology and related disciplines, and advance our understanding of social actions, social relationships and societies. Thus, in contrast to the traditional sociological concern with abstract ‘social facts’ that threatened, at times, to render redundant a focus on the physical constitution of those subject to them [3], sociologists of embodiment have explored the corporeal consequences of social structures, while also highlighting how the bodily components of agency and interaction were affected by, and became meaningful to people through, such factors as health, illness and dis/ability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Embodied Action, Embodied Theory: Understanding the Body in Society)

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