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Week 7 Tutor

Dr Claire Shaw

SLIDES 2023-Powerpoint

In the 1990s a new field of history writing emerged in Anglo-American academia: the history of the body. Today it has become one of the most successful interdisciplinary research areas bringing together historians with physicians, anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, political scientists, sociologists, and increasingly with researchers in contemporary life sciences such as the neurosciences. This lecture and seminar introduces students to this important historical area and looks at the underlying methodological changes which made this “turn” to the body possible. How did the history of the body from the 1990s differ from earlier approaches to understand the body in the past? Moreover, we shall have a look at how the field developed since the 1990s and what it looks like today.

Core Reading
  • Foucault, Michel, History of Sexuality, Vol, 1, pp. 3-35. ( -- you've read it earlier this term, so just remind yourself of what we've talked about in the session on power.
  • Joan Scott, 'The Evidence of Experience'. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1991), pp. 773-797.
  • Caroline Bynum, Why All the Fuss about the Body? A Medievalist's Perspective, Vol.22, 1 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 1-33.
  • David M. Turner, 'Introduction: Approaching Anomalous Bodies', in Social Histories of Disability and Deformity, (Routledge, 2006). (e-book library). (For a newer perspective and a current new trend in the history of the body)
For a good overview and entry in the subject since the 1990s:
  • Roger Cooter, ‘The Turn of the Body' in Roger Cooter with Claudia Stein, Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine (New Haven, 2013). (e-book library)
Seminar/Essay Questions
  1. In what ways do bodies matter in history?
  2. 'Bodies are 'real' and not simply language constructions.' Discuss.
  3. Can history reveal bodily experiences of the past?
  4. 'It is not individuals who have experience but subjects who are constituted through experience. Experience in this definition then becomes not the origin of our explanation, not the authoritative (because seen or felt) evidence that grounds what is known, but rather that which we seek to explain, that about which knowledge is produced. To think about experience in this way is to historicize it as well as to historicize the identities it produces. This kind of historicizing presents a reply to the many contemporary historians who have argued that an unproblematized ‘experience’ is the foundation of their practice: it is a historicizing that implies critical scrutiny of all explanatory categories usually taken for granted, including the category of ‘experience’. (Joan Scott, The Evidence of Experience', 1991). Discuss.

  5. 'The second (of power), formed somewhat later, focused on the species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that can cause these to vary. Their supervision was effected through an entire series of interventions and regulatory controls: a biopolitics of the population.' (Foucault, History of sexuality vol.1).
  6. 'What is peculiar to modern societies, in fact, is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret.' (Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. 1)
  7. How has the linguistic turn shaped the history of the body?
  8. How does the history of the body push us to challenge seemingly 'essential' characteristics, such as race, gender and disability?
  9. Is there a universal biological human body?
  10. 'To talk about the body is also to talk about power.' Discuss.
  11. 'Hence, it is not that one cannot get outside of language in order to grasp materiality in and of itself; rather, every effort to refer to materiality takes place through a signifying process which, in its phenomenality, is always already material. In this sense, then, language and materiality are not opposed, for language both is and refers to that which is material, and what is material never fully escapes from the process by which it is signified.” (Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, 1993).
Further Reading
  • Bourke, Joanna, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (1996).
  • Csordas, Thomas J.,’Introduction: The Body as Representation and Being-in-the World,’ in T. Csordas (ed.), Embodiment and Experience (Cambridge, 1994).
  • Duden, Barbara, The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor’s Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany (1991), chapter 1: ‘Towards a History of the Body’.
  • Feher, Michel, (ed.), Fragments for a History of the Human Body, vols 1-3 (New York, 1989).
  • Featherstone, Mike, Hepworth, Mike and Turner, Bryan S. (eds.), The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory (London, 1991).
  • Foucault, Michel, read selections from The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow: ‘The Body of the Condemned,’ ‘Docile Bodies,’ ‘We ‘Other Victorians,’ ‘The Repressive Hypothesis’, ‘The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century’ (London, 1984).
  • Frank, Arthur W., ‘Bringing Bodies Back in: A Decade Review,’ Theory, Culture, Society 7 (1990).
  • Hancock, Philip et al. (eds.), The Body, Culture and Society (Buckingham, 2000).
  • Healey, Dan, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (Bloomsbury, 2017).
  • Hillman, David, Mazzio, Carla (eds.), The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in Early Modern Europe (New York, 1997).
  • Hunt, Lynn, 'The Self and its History', The American Historical Review, Volume 119, Issue 5, December 2014, pp. 1576–1586,
  • Jenner, Mark. ‘Body, History, Text in Early Modern Europe,’ Social History of Medicine 12 (1999): 143- 54.
  • Ibid. and Taithe, Bertrand, ‘The Historiographical Body,’ in Roger Cooter and John Pickstone (eds.), Medicine in the Twentieth Century (Amsterdam, 2000).
  • Latour, Bruno. ‘How to Talk about the Body? The Normative Dimension of Science Studies’, Body and Society (2004): 205-29.
  • Laqueur, Thomas, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Harvard, 1990).
  • Lowe, David M., The Body in Late-Capitalist USA (Durham, 1995).
  • Lock, Margaret. ‘“Cultivating the Body”: Anthropology and Epistemologies of Bodily Practice and Knowledge’, Annual Review of Anthropology 22 (1993): 133-55.
  • Meyerowitz, Joanne, ‘Sex Change and the Popular Press: Historical Notes on Transsexuality in the United States, 1930-1955,’ GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 4.2 (1998): 159- 187.
  • Outram, Dorinda. ‘Body and Paradox’, Isis 84 (1993): 347-52.
  • Park, Katharine, Nye, Robert A., 'Destiny is Anatomy, Review of Laqueur's Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud.' The New Republic, 18, (1991): 53-57.
  • Price, Janet and Schildrick, Margrit (eds.), Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader (Edinburgh, 1999)
  • Ruberg, Willemijn, History of the Body (London, 2019) -- very good overview
  • Kathlee
  • Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford, 1985).
  • Schiebinger, Londa, “The Anatomy of Difference: Race and Sex in Eighteenth-Century Science,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 23, no. 4, 1990, pp. 387–405. JSTOR,
  • Scott, Joan W. ‘The Evidence of Experience’, Critical Inquiry 17.4 (1991): 773-797.
  • Simon Schaffer, ‘Self Evidence’, Critical Inquiry 18, no. 2 (1992): 327-362.
  • Shaw, Claire ‘Deafness and the Politics of Hearing’. in Tricia Starks and Matthew Romaniello (eds), Russian History through the Senses: From 1700 to the Present. Bloomsbury Academic, London, 193-218.
  • Shilling, Chris, The Body and Social Theory (London, 1993).
  • Smith, Mark, Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Touching and Tasting in History (University of California Press, 2007).
  • Starobinsky, Jean, ‘The Natural and Literary History of Bodily Sensation,’ in Michel Feher (ed.), Fragments for a History of the Human Body, vol. 2 (New York, 1989).
  • Sawday, Jonathan, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London, 1995).
  • Turner, Bryan, The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory (Sage, 1984).
  • Vila, Anne, ‘The Making of the Modern Body’ [essay review], Modern Language Notes 104 (4) (1989): 927-36.