The body came to be taken seriously as a topic of cultural history during the “corporeal” or “bodily” turn in the 1980s and 1990s. Soon, however, critique was raised against these studies’ conceptualization of the body as discursively shaped and socially disciplined: individual bodily agency and feeling were felt to be absent in the idea of the material body. This article critically analyzes new approaches in the field of body history, particularly the so-called “material turn”. It argues that the material turn, especially in the guise of praxiography, has a lot to offer historians of the body, such as more attention to material practices, to different kinds of actors and a more open eye to encounters. Potential problems of praxiographical analyses of the body in history include the complicated relationship between discourses and practices and the neglect of the political and feminist potential of deconstructive discourse analyses. However, a focus on the relationship between practices of knowledge production and the representation of the body may also provide new ways of opening up historical power relations.
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