Music and the body

The sociology of the body

In the realm of common sense, the body is paradoxical. At once selfevident and mysterious, biologically 'given' yet modifiable, the body is characterized through contradiction. Exploring these contradictions helps to open many deeper questions concerning the relationship between bodies and the material-cultural settings of their existence. Perhaps the best place to begin is by exploring the questions of where 'body' ends and 'environment' begins. What kind of a line should be drawn, for example, between 'endogenous' and 'exogenous' bodily features?

This definitional conundrum is by no means merely academic. On the contrary, it has bearing upon the very questions that can be posed about bodily matters. In recent years it has been given new impetus through studies that focus on the reflexive relationship between body and society. Calling into question the axiomatic status of 'the' body, and its associated dualisms (mind/body, culture/nature, particular/universal, subject/object), recent perspectives within sociology, history and cultural studies have proposed a conception of the 'body' as a socialized entity, configured at and serving also to demarcate the interstices of nature, culture and technology (Birke 1992a; 1992b; Featherstone et al. 1991; Haraway 1985; Jaggar and Bordo 1992; Turner 1984). These perspectives offer great potential for medical science, but do not square with medical institutions and institutionalized practice as these are currently configured. They interact well with complementary medicine (Sharma 1992), however, through their focus on the body as a construction. This focus shifts away from what the body 'is' (and what can be done 'to' it), to a focus on what the body may become as it is situated within different contexts and viewed from within different terms of reference.

Thinking about the body as a construction involves much more than thinking about how, in the superficial sense, it is 'represented' (see Shilling's critique of social constructionism and body matters, 1993). At


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Music in Everyday Life


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