“We've needed a book like Many Mirrors for a long time. In the veritable explosion of new scholarship on the human body, this book stands out in its focus on empirical research. Many Mirrors will move . . . the Anthropology of the Body a giant step forward.”--C. H. Browner, University of California at Los Angeles
In every society, people define and change their physical appearance in response to their relationships to others: we add clothes and masks, remove them, build up our muscles, perforate our flesh, cut parts away, comb our hair, and modify our diets. In rural Jamaica, fat women are considered desirable; in American suburbia, teenage girls are obsessed with thinness. Bedouin women use tattoos to express their secret longings; Asian American women undergo cosmetic surgery to conform to internalized western standards of beauty. Even with mirrors to see ourselves, we rely on the reactions of others to learn how we look and who we are.
Where contemporary Western culture sees the body as a concrete thing with an objective, observable reality, separate from the self, many other societies regard the person as an integrated whole that includes the mind, the body, and the spirit. Through the contributors' studies of individual cultures and through the editor’s unifying “body image system”, this volume gives us a new conceptual framework for understanding how women and men in any society perceive, describe, and alter their bodies.