Culture and the Senses Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community. by Kathryn Geurts Moral Embodiment and Sensory Socialization 4. Person and Identity 6. Toward an Health, Strength, and Sensory Dimensions of Well-Being 8. [EPUB] Culture and the Senses: Embodiment, Identity, and Well-Being in an African Community by. Kathryn Linn Geurts. Book file PDF easily for everyone and.
Such data are not to be thought of as determining individual characteristics or social life. Standardly sex was seen as fixed by biology, and gender, as the social meanings attached to such biology, seen as historically and socially variable, and open to change. For her the data of biology, offered as facts, lack the fixity which later accounts sometimes took for granted. She shows herself aware of the way in which cultural myths and metaphors influence the telling of the biological story, even as she herself offers it to us. In pointing out the ideological influence on the descriptions of the active sperm and the passive egg [ 44] she anticipates the work of later writers Martin Moreover she shows herself consistently aware of the possibilities which the biological data leave open to us, stressing alternatives to heterosexual reproduction throughout the biological realm, the incidence of hermaphrodism in human and other animals, and drawing attention in the animal kingdom to cases where care of the eggs and the young is done by both male and female animals.
The consequence is that not even the biology of sexual difference is determined. It is only through existence that the facts are manifest … and nothing requires that this body have this or that particular structure … the perpetuation of the species does not necessitate sexual differentiation … [while] it remains true that both a mind without a body and an immortal man are strictly inconceivable … we can imagine a parthenogenetic or hermaphroditic society. On the other hand, the meanings and significance which we attach to our materiality do not float free of that materiality.
The way the body is lived by us has to accommodate the data which biology variably tries to capture, including facts of reproduction, menstruation and menopause. It is, as Sandford , points out an existential one. And in exploring what constituted existing as a woman, biological data was just one of the constituents. Here she is explicitly offering her narrative as an account of lived experience, the body in situation. She is trained into a different way of inhabiting it. He is encouraged to climb trees and play rough games. The account which Beauvoir is offering here is one in which girls undergo something like a training in bodily habits which structure the possibilities for interaction with their world.
As the girl enters puberty, Beauvoir notes, her body becomes to her a source of horror and shame. These negative descriptions are continued for sexual initiation, marriage, and motherhood. Her phenomenology of the maternal body has been especially controversial:. These accounts have been a source of criticism, particularly when later feminists sought to celebrate the female body as a source of pleasure, fertility, and empowerment, see below.
However it is important to recognize that what she was offering was a descriptive phenomenology of female bodies as lived in specific situations. She was describing a particular set of experiences at a specific social and historical point. As she explicitly says:. It is in a total situation which leaves her few outlets that her peculiarities take on their importance. The way in which the young girl and then the woman experiences her body is, for Beauvoir, a consequence of a process of internalizing the view of it under the gaze of others. Through compliments and admonishments, through images and words, she discovers the meaning of the words pretty and ugly; she soon knows that to be pleased is to be pretty as a picture; she tries to resemble an image, she disguises herself, she looks at herself in the mirror, she compares herself to princesses and fairies from tales.
The phenomenological writer Franz Fanon, Black Skins White Masks ,  describes how, on his arrival in France, he discovers his blackness:. I discovered myself as an object among other objects…the other fixes me, just like a dye is used to fix a chemical solution…. It is not a question of the Black being black anymore, but rather of his being Black opposite the White…we came to have to confront the white gaze …. I was all at once responsible for my body, responsible for my race, for my ancestors.
Later theorists have, however, pointed out that in, offering her own account, Beauvoir herself failed to recognize the way in which both race and gender intersect in providing a phenomenology of lived corporeality Gines ; see the discussion of intersectionality in section 4 below. Engagement with female embodiment, the goal of which is to give positive accounts of it, are found in two different strands of feminist thought: Anglo-American radical feminism particularly in the late s and 80s and psychoanalytic feminism, drawing on the work of Freud and Lacan.
Sexual difference theorists, whether working from a radical feminist tradition or from a psychoanalytic feminist tradition, insist on the specificity of female embodiment, a horizon which becomes invisible when the male is taken as the norm of the human. For many of these theorists sexual difference is fundamental and immutable.
There are some controversies over exactly what is to be termed radical feminism. As used here the term refers to feminists who stress essential or very deep rooted differences between men and women, and who celebrate the distinctive modes of embodiment and experiential capacities that women have. Female sexuality is celebrated for its power and its supposed capacity to escape from structures of dominance and submission, Rich Reproduction and their caring roles also sets them against the widespread violence of men. However, such approaches also suffer from the dangers of homogenizing what are very variable experiences both of sexuality and maternity.
Moreover woman themselves engage in military professions, and can themselves be violent in private and public space.
In the work of Irigaray, , , , we find a sustained critique of both philosophy and psychoanalysis, for their masculinist presuppositions. Such a critique insists on the recognition of sexual difference and the difference that female corporeality can make to the shape which thought can take.
She makes here what may seem like a rather startling claim: namely that the morphology of the body is reflected in the morphology of certain thought processes. So, for example, western rationality is marked by principles of identity, non-contradiction, binarism, atomism and determinate individuation.
This makes evident that the bodily features which she invokes in her writings are not brute materialities, but, as is perhaps made clearest in Whitford , bodies as they feature in the interconnected symbolic and imaginary of western culture. When Irigaray refers to male and female bodily characteristics she is, according to Whitford, capturing the way she finds these features both represented and imagined, that is, affectively experienced, in the personal and social domain.
She argues for the need to reconstruct an inter-connected imaginary and symbolic of the female body which is liveable and positive for women. It is a creative one in which the female body is lovingly re-imagined and rearticulated to enable women to both feel and think differently about their embodied form.
Irigaray herself considers how philosophical and psychoanalytic thinking would be different if we took a re-imagined female or maternal body as its starting point instead of the male body, imagined in phallic terms. Such work has been continued in the writings of, for example, Battersby , Cavarero and Alison Stone For Cavarero the lack of attention paid to the fact that we are born from woman has given western metaphysics a preoccupation with death rather than birth.
Stone explores the maternal body to suggest models of subjectivity of a new kind, immersed in relations of intimacy and dependence. Both the foundational status and the inevitability of sexual difference has become a key point of contention between sexual difference theorists and intersectional theorists whose work is anchored particularly in black feminist thought Crenshaw , Hill Collins and Bilge , but also in contributions from theorists of bodily abilities and trans theorists.
Garland-Thomson , Bettcher and Garry , Koyama These theorists challenge the priority of sexual difference, in our accounts of embodied subjectivity, and the possibility of providing generic accounts of what such difference consists in. What counts as being a man or a woman, what life opportunities result from gendered positionality, and how these factors are internalized to form our lived experience of being gendered, is mediated by the other categories which intersect with gendered ones.
The normative ideals attached to the concepts are different, though also overlapping. These positionalities have consequences for our life opportunities both economically and in the wider social realm, which the structural data make evident. And all of this has consequences for our lived subjectivity, how we experience our bodies, our sense of ourselves as male or female, amongst other identifiers. Black feminist critiques challenge the racism of mainstream white feminist thought for theorizing womanhood from the perspective of white women thereby rendering the particular experiences of black and other groups of marginalized women invisible.
source Audre Lorde writes:. As a Black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom of expression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some aspect of myself and present this as a meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live. Lorde The coining of the term intersectionality is often accredited to African-American civil rights advocate and feminist and critical race scholar, Kimberle Crenshaw As black women we do not experience racism AND sexism as separate discrete strands of oppression, Crenshaw argues, but instead racism and sexism intersect and combine to shape the lives, including the experiences of embodiment, of black women, in very specific ways.
This is not a matter of adding on experiences of being raced to a foundational sexed identity. What constitutes being a woman is inter-articulated with being black, in ways that challenge the universalism of sexual difference theory. Disability theorists from the s onwards explored how disability affected the gendering process and gender the experiences and outcomes of differing bodily abilities Mairs , Thomas Feminist theory, as Garland-Thomson argues:.
And the relative privileges of normative femininity are often denied to these women. Such work by intersectional feminists challenge any foundational role, or universal articulation of, sexed difference itself.
Feminist writers from Wollstonecraft onwards have drawn attention to the way in which society prescribes norms in relation to which subjects regulate their own bodies and those of others. By regimes of dieting, makeup, exercise, dress, and cosmetic surgery, women, and increasingly men, try to sculpt their bodies into shapes which reflect the dominant societal norms.
Such disciplinary practices attach not only to the production of appropriately gendered bodies, but to other aspects of bodily identity subject to social normalization.
Hair straightening, blue tinted contact lenses, surgical reconstruction of noses and lips, are practices in which the material shapes of our bodies are disciplined to correspond to a social ideal, reflecting the privileged position which certain kinds of, usually, white, always able, always young, bodies occupy. From the s, feminist attention to the power relations working through such disciplinary practices has made extensive use of the work of Foucault Foucault , Bartky , Bordo Foucauldian insights regarding disciplinary practices of the body are applied to the disciplining of the gendered, and most insistently the female, body.
Such accounts stress the way in which women actively discipline their own bodies not only to avoid social punishments, but also to derive certain kinds of pleasure. There are two key features of such accounts. One stresses the way in which the material shape of bodies is modified by such practices. The second that such modifications are a consequence of bodies carrying social meanings, signalling within specific contexts, sexual desirability, or availability, or respectability, or participation in social groupings.
With attention to the work of Foucault and other poststructuralist writers, also came the recognition that practices of bodily modification could have multiple meanings, with disagreements over responses to cosmetics, fashion and cosmetic surgery Davis , Alsop and Lennon It was against this background that Bordo developed her complex and influential reading of the anorexic body:.
In the work of Butler , , , the subjection of our bodies to such normalizing practices become viewed, not only a way in which already sexed bodies seek to approximate an ideal, but as the process whereby sexed subjects come into existence at all.
Despite this, African-American neighborhoods have played an important role in the development of nearly all aspects of both African-American culture and broader American culture. Kente cloth is the best known African textile. For instance, zO lugulugu referred to walking as if drunk; walking kadzakadza implied the majestic movement of a lion. But the idea that manifesting some element of another culture in your own behavior is immoral is insane. In addressing this question, this book offers a rich ethnographic account of how middle-class families in urban India care for their relatives with dementia. She is pointing at a locally woven basket known as a kevi.
Since with the appearance of Gender Trouble , her performative account of gendered subjectivity has dominated feminist theory. Butler rejects the view that gender differences, with their accompanying presumptions of heterosexuality, have their origin in biological or natural differences. Butler, like Foucault, views discourses as productive of the identities they appear to be describing.