Understanding Body Images
Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
THOMAS F. CASH
Looking back over nearly a century of scholarly attempts to understand the profoundly human experience of embodiment that we call "body image," we find a very rich and inspiring history. From diverse vantage points, psychologists, physicians, and philosophers have theorized about the nature and significance of body image. Scientists have made systematic observations to test their ideas and discover the meanings of body image. Clinical practitioners have pursued remedies directed toward the body, the mind, or both to help people whose quality of life is diminished by their body image experiences.
This introductory chapter offers a historical and conceptual context for the volume by highlighting specific books that mark important milestones in body image scholarship, identifying and discussing core conceptual themes about body image that permeate past and current eras, and articulating contemporary perspectives on body image by summarizing the organization and contents of this handbook, which speak to its rationale and uniqueness.
Understanding modern perspectives on body image requires insight into the long and rich lineage of the body image construct. In the single most informative historical review of body image, the late Seymour Fisher, in his