Body Talk: The Material and Discursive Regulation of Sexuality, Madness, and Reproduction

Body Talk: The Material and Discursive Regulation of Sexuality, Madness, and Reproduction

Body Talk: The Material and Discursive Regulation of Sexuality, Madness, and Reproduction

Body Talk: The Material and Discursive Regulation of Sexuality, Madness, and Reproduction

Synopsis

Psychology has traditionally examined human experience from a realist perspective, focusing on observable 'facts'. This is especially so in areas of psychology which focus on the body, such as sexuality, madness or reproduction. In contrast, many sociologists, anthropologists and feminists have focused exclusively on the cultural and communicative aspects of 'the body' treating it purely as an object constructed within socio-cultural discourse.
This new collection of sophisticated discursive analyses explores this divide from a variety of theoretical standpoints, including psychoanalysis, social representations theory, feminist theory, critical realism, post-structuralism and social constructionism.
Body Talkreconciles the divide by putting forward a new 'materialist-discursive' approach. It also provides an introduction to social constructionist and discursive approaches which is accessible to those with limited previous knowledge of socio-linguistic theory, and showcases the distinctive contribution that psychologists can make to the field.

Excerpt

Towards a material-discursive analysis of madness, sexuality and reproduction

Jane M. Ussher

‘BODY TALK’: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

To talk of the body is to talk of corporeality, action and flesh. Or so it is said in science, psychology and the law.

Or:

To talk of the body is to talk of discourse, of signs and signifiers, of representations of fantasy and desire. So say poststructuralist, semiotic and psychoanalytic theorists.

Which is the truth? Which way should we turn?

This is the perennial material-discursive divide. Those who stand on the ‘material’ side focus on the physical aspects of experience - on the corporeal body, the literal implementation of institutional control, the impact of the social environment, or on factors such as social class or economic status. Those who focus on the ‘discursive’ look to the social and linguistic domains - to talk, to visual representation, to ideology, culture and power. Theorists and critics from each side of the divide have seen the body as their rightful domain. To one camp it is a matter of physical flesh, to the other it is a matter of symbols and signs. So, again, which is the truth, which way should we turn?

This book explores a range of answers to these questions, from a variety of theoretical positions and epistemological standpoints, including psychoanalysis, social representations theory, feminist standpoint theory, critical realism, poststructuralism and social constructionism. Those who are looking for a battle of wills (or of words), or a rerun of either the nature-nurture or the realist-relativist debate should stop at this point. You will not find it here. For at one level the solutions to the material-discursive dilemma which are offered in this book are all the same. The view that we need to move away from the binary divide between material and discursive analyses of the body, towards a position which allows us to recognise the interaction and interrelationship between the two, is what unifies the individual contributions. What distinguishes them from each other is the way in which the material-discursive question is addressed, and the

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