Researching the Female Reproductive Body: Theoretical Approaches

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 22 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Andri CHRISTOFOROU, European University Cyprus, Cyprus
The expanding academic interest in the body during the last three decades has resulted in remarkable work concerning the construction, representation, and experiencing of the body across diverse geographical, socio-cultural, and historical contexts.  However, much of the work produced tends to rely on distinct theoretical approaches, utilizing either approaches that focus on the social regulation of the body or phenomenological approaches that emphasize the lived experience. In this paper I discuss the use of multiple conceptual tools for the empirical study of Greek Cypriot women’s experiences of menstruation and menopause. Specifically, I discuss how I approach the body both as a subject and as an object, by examining the women’s experiences and practices on the one hand, and by examining the construction of the female body and its representations within discourses and institutions on the other, and how these affect the women’s experiences in the context of everyday. Combining phenomenological approaches with the theories of Douglas, Elias and Goffman, enables me to pay particular emphasis to the notions of embodiment and agency, that is, to view women as embodied social actors who reflexively construct meaning and interpret their experiences. Additionally, such a framework allows me to take into consideration the materiality/corporeality of the body, which is inextricably linked with women’s reproductive experiences. I argue that researching the female reproductive body provides an excellent opportunity to connect the lived body and the body as a site of social control and regulation. This paper illustrates that adopting an open, flexible theoretical approach that engages with diverse theoretical concepts according to their usefulness can provide significant insight into what it means to be a woman and to ‘have a woman’s body’ in the context under investigation.