The Body and Health.
• The impulse for this specialism emanates partly from the
work of Michel Foucault.
• body as the primary focus and locus of power,
• This thesis is made explicit in 'Discipline & Punish'
• Lupton aligns Erving Goffman, Mary Douglas and
Foucault with social constructionist approach.
• Social Constructionism emphasizes the ways in which
our social meanings, categories, values attitudes and
behaviours are socially produced rather than naturally
• health and illness are not just biological or physiological
phenomena they are social categories too.
Four Main Strands of Social
1. A critical stance towards taken for
granted knowledge and concepts
2. Historical and Cultural Specificity.
3. Knowledge is sustained by social
4. Knowledge and social action go
• Berger and Luckman ‘our sense of what is real is
not out there to be discovered it is entirely
• provides a powerful critique of Durkheimian
notions of 'Social Facts'
• problematic in relation to embodiment and
• concern with the way that social processes
construct and mould the body
• body is first and foremost a social thing.
Madness and Civilization
• 'mad' a social construction of modernity.
• the category of 'madness' had to be invented and invested with a
'regime of truth'
• traits of ‘madness’ had to be ‘invented’ or identified by professionals
with knowledge- within a discourse of ‘Madness’.
• ‘Mad’ individuals inscribed with these traits, in the context of this
discourse of Madness
• ‘Madness’ not a biological category it is a social one.
• bodies, a product of social and discursive processes of inscription.
• Foucault appeared to lose sight of human agency.
• Sought to remedy this with notions of resistance.
• ‘technologies of self’
Madness and Civilization 2
• real’ human bodies and not just constructed ‘subject-
positions’ can resist these disciplining discourses.
• Discourses of modernity, such as the bio-medical model
of medicine, seek to create docile bodies.
• bodies ‘disciplined’ by discourses into efficient and
productive ‘materials’ for the ‘reproductive’ (women) and
‘productive’ (men) needs of capital and the bio-political
• The discourses of Madness and sexuality regulate our
social behaviour by defining what is normal and what is
The Politics of Biological
• Sociologists on the left of the political spectrum.
• critical approach to social structures and institutions
• Some form of biologism have a different political
• Difference and inequality ‘naturalised’.
• Problems with Sociobiology
• The Politics of Evolutionary Theory
• Herbert Spencer’s application of evolutionary theory to
explain social change and social inequality.
The Inscribed Body
• scarification and marking of bodies.
• Scarification has deep symbolic significance.
• It says something about who we are and our social roles.
• Affects inside and 'outside' of bodies
• process of socialisation and enculturation a process of scarification
• we are coded or inscribed with culture by social processes.
• a central part of medical intervention now concerns perfecting the
• Body building; cosmetic surgery etc
• Bob Connell (1983) 'transcendence'
Muscle: Confessions of an
• body projects and body modification as a means
of resisting all the stuff that Foucault was talking
• Samuel Fussell (1991)– quest to build the
• Body building as a postmodern art form
• exagerrated form of hypermasculinity.
• manipulations of the biological body
• commitments to ideals of youth and beauty
• body is regarded as malleable substance
The Anorexic Body –
• Susie Orbach ‘Anorexia describes the condition of women who
'have become scared of food and what it can do to them'
• Szasz (1974) 'Addiction, obesity and anorexia are political
problems, not psychiatric; each condenses and expresses a
contest between the individual and some other person or
persons in his environment' (1974).
• starvation as a means for acquiring greater autonomy and
• Problematic view - non-western countries hardly any cases of
anorexia or bulimia.
• diseases of affluent, western societies.
• Susan Bordo ‘a link between eating disorders and phobias
about fat and the tension in advanced consumer capitalism
between the productive work ethic and the incitement to
Control or subjection?
• Passive or active body?
• Self starvation at one point represents control
• symbolically signifyies a well managed self
• at it's limits it purveys a message of a self out of
• discourse of bodily perfection structures all of
our identities to some
• impact on how we see ourselves.
• greater need to gain control over our bodies
• Anorexia; body building and cosmetic surgery all imply
some degree of choice with regard to bodily performances.
• bodies are produced by the individual,
• What about the experience of being a body? a diseased
body or a healthy body or a body in pain or a disabled
body or a sexual body.
• experience of embodiment most distinct when we undergo
some sort of sense of it’s deviation from the norm,
• emphasis on bodily perfection in contemporary culture
• bodies that do not confirm to this highly idealized norm are
considered to be faulty bodies, bodies that become hidden
Disability and the Body
• Susan Wendell, Judith Butler have noted that disabled women in
Western societies face particular difficulties because bodily
perfection is so often equated with health and success.
• faulty bodies are ascribed or inscribed with difference both
externally and internally.
• As a result they are often isolated and excluded.
• Jenny Morris ‘mainstream society has very low expectations of
disabled men and women’.
• pressure on disabled people to conform
• individuals with disabilities may try to compensate for their
disabilities by striving to look as close to the non-disabled "norm" as
• Mike Oliver - Parsons ‘Sick Role’ Theory to explain the way that
disabled people are expected to cultivate dependency and
• disabled people perceived in a state of perpetual illness,
• expected to assume the position of patient, a perpetual state of
accepted dependency upon medical experts.
• the medical model is significant: by adopting particular conceptions
of normality, people with disabilities are defined according to the
criteria they do not meet, rather than those they do. They are
defined in relation to what they are not.
• Oliver "In short, they are the product of the `psychological
imagination' constructed upon a bedrock of `non-disabled'
assumptions of what it is like to experience impairment. The
realisation of impairment is presumed to involve some form of loss
or `personal tragedy'.
• disabled people are perceived as being free from social obligations
Problems with social
• Disability and Anorexia clearly indicate the
intersection between the material and the
• lived experience of the material body structured
by biological and social factors.
• To suggest that the body is entirely socially
constructed implies that we can escape from our
bodies if we just change cultural attitudes
• Concepts we use to describe our experiences of
embodiment social and cultural but does that
mean the body is socially constructed?