The Body: The Key Concepts

The Body: The Key Concepts

The Body: The Key Concepts

The Body: The Key Concepts

Excerpt

Just what kind of human being is that biotechnologically constructed baby — the
cloned child?

Rose, The Politics of Life Itself. Biomedicine,
Power and Subjectivity in the 21 Century

Is their anything natural about the human body? Is this still a viable concept for organizing, examining and reflecting upon the body as an object of study within the humanities? What can be said to be distinctly human about the body, and how do we make such differentiations? How might motivations and methods for studying the body differ when we compare approaches within the humanities to the life, biological and psychological sciences? One of the central premises that will be explored in this book is that the 'natural body', with all the assumptions this notion brings with it, is looking rather fragile and shaky. Indeed, the Dutch anthropologist AnneMarie Mol (2002) talks about 'a' body not as a singular, bounded entity or substance but rather as what she terms the 'body multiple'. She argues that the body is not bounded by the skin, where we understand the skin to be a kind of container for the self, but rather our bodies always extend and connect to other bodies, human and non-human, to practices, techniques, technologies and objects which produce different kinds of bodies and different ways, arguably, of enacting what it means to be human. The idea of the body as simply something that we both have and are is displaced in this perspective as the focus shifts to what bodies can do, what bodies could become, what practices enable and coordinate the doing of particular kinds of bodies, and what this makes possible in terms of our approach to questions about life, humanness, culture, power, technology and subjectivity. These are some of the themes we will explore throughout the book and which radically refigure the idea of the body as substance or entity and even as distinctly human.

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