272.1 Being, having and doing: Theorizing and living bodies

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 10:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Anthony SYNNOTT , Sociology, Sociology of the body; men's studies, Montreal, QC, Canada
We are our bodies. We have our bodies. We do our bodies. This is axiomatic and our starting point. It also constitutes our bodies as subject, object and project; or, in another terminology, self, other and action. Certainly we may be more than our bodies, but we are, never the less, embodied. This trichotomous shamrock theory of the body is also unitary since since we are, have and do our bodies continually and simultaneously, and we only have one each.

With this practical framework we explore some of the principal sociological, and other, theories of the body: Sartre on the body as self, and Goffman on its presentation; again, the emergence of Social Psychology and Disability Studies debated the relation between body and self Second, Descartes on the body as object, machine, and his mechanism has been foundational to bio-medicine until the essay by Engel(1977) on the need to develop a sociopsychobio-medicine and the rise of Medical Sociology; this conceptualization has also been developed by some feminist authors on the objectification of female bodies and critiquing the male gaze, and more recently on the self-objectification by women. The body as project was argued particularly by Giddens and in a different way by Bourdieu, Bromberg, but also by de Beauvoir (on beautification), Foucault (the production of the docile body) and Butler on performance. Featherstone has worked on body modification.

The intersectionality of body with gender, race, class and ability is also a matter of interest in creating very different social constructions of the body. Furthermore, the body fights back: what the body does to us is as critical as what we do to our bodies: our bodies age us and eventually kill us. This is the triumph of the object over the subject, whatever the project.