The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies

The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies

The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies

The Roots of Power: Animate Form and Gendered Bodies

Synopsis

This interdisciplinary work demonstrates, by steadfast attention to corporeal matters of fact, how the concept of power and of power relations is rooted in bodily life, in animate form. It first shows how Foucault's "optics of power" is Sartre's "The Look" writ large, and proceeds to explain how optics of power are undergirded by a "power of optics" which has its roots in our primate evolutionary heritage. The exploration of an evolutionary genealogy leads in turn into extended examinations and exemplifications of corporeal and intercorporeal archetypes. Moving easily through biological, anthropological and psychological domains, and informed by keen philosophical reflection, "The Roots of Power" aims to show how the personal and political are fundamentally joined in the body, that is, how the political defines us both as creatures of a natural history and as culturally - and individually - groomed bearers of meaning. Sheets-Johnstone assesses the complex of topics that progressively surfaces such as females' being receptive "year-round", male threat/female vulnerability, Sartre's characterisation of females' being "in the form of a hole", and proposed relationships between aggression and sex.

Excerpt

The watchwords of the feminist movement in the early 1970s—the personal is political and the political is personal—had a tremendous impact. They marked a moment of critical awakening and raising of consciousness: women are oppressed, yes, but they can work toward their own empowerment.

This book, an interdisciplinary inquiry into the roots of power, may be seen as an attempt to go back to those formidable and mobilizing watchwords and to mine them further, indeed, to reinvigorate them with both broader and deeper meanings. While the connection between the personal-political equation and the philosophical investigation in chapter 1 of this book is readily apparent, the equation is in fact not a local topic but thematic of the book as a whole. What the book demonstrates from beginning to end is that in corporeal matters of fact lie dimensions of ourselves that are at once both personal and political. It does this basically by taking account of our evolutionary history, of the fact that whatever our color, culture, national origin, class, sex, political affiliation, age, height, weight, religious preference, or what have you, we are all products of a common natural history. We are all Darwinian bodies. That we are such bodies means precisely that there are corporeal matters of fact to be discovered. Moreover, it demands that we recognize the ties that bind us in a common humanity. Our basic differences—like our fundamental human beliefs and practices —are not merely social constructions; they are social constructions that are through and through rooted in our being the animate forms we are. In other words, cultures rework aspects of our communal . . .

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