In 1972 the artist Adrian Piper began periodically dressing as a persona called the Mythic Being, striding the streets of New York in a mustache, Afro wig, and mirrored sunglasses with a cigar in the corner of her mouth. Her Mythic Being performances critically engaged with popular representations of race, gender, sexuality, and class; they challenged viewers to accept personal responsibility for xenophobia and discrimination and the conditions that allowed them to persist. Piper’s work confronts viewers and forces them to reconsider assumptions about the social construction of identity. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment is an in-depth analysis of this pioneering artist’s work, illustrated with more than ninety images, including twenty-one in color.
Over the course of a decade, John P. Bowles and Piper conversed about her art and its meaning, reception, and relation to her scholarship on Kant’s philosophy. Drawing on those conversations, Bowles locates Piper’s work at the nexus of Conceptual and feminist art of the late 1960s and 1970s. Piper was the only African American woman associated with the Conceptual artists of the 1960s and one of only a few African Americans to participate in exhibitions of the nascent feminist art movement in the early 1970s. Bowles contends that Piper’s work is ultimately about our responsibility for the world in which we live.
Agency and Embodiment
Carrie Noland Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress HM636.N65 2009 | Dewey Decimal 306.4
In Agency and Embodiment, Carrie Noland examines the ways in which culture is both embodied and challenged through the corporeal performance of gestures. Arguing against the constructivist metaphor of bodily inscription dominant since Foucault, Noland maintains that kinesthetic experience, produced by acts of embodied gesturing, places pressure on the conditioning a body receives, encouraging variations in cultural practice that cannot otherwise be explained.
This book was originated within the research environment Architecture of Embodiment, which inquires into architecture from an enactivist perspective and through aesthetic practices. This research environment does not primarily aim to formulate answers to its main research question—how does architecture condition the emergence of sense?—but to provide the adequate conceptual, methodological, and communicative conditions to address it. Ultimately, it aims to destabilize its objects of research in order to disclose new intelligibilities of the issues under inquiry. In this sense, Architecture of Embodiment, as an environment, intends to fulfill a fundamental cognitive function of research through aesthetic practices.
Architectures of Embodiment is a constellation of coexisting autonomous artifacts: texts by Alex Arteaga, Mika Elo, Ana García Varas, Lidia Gasperoni, Jonathan Hale, Susanne Hauser, Dieter Mersch and Gerard Vilar in dialogue with one another through comments and comments on the comments. It is conceived as a dialogical research dispositive: an invitation to participate in an open-ended process of research within a growing ecology of research practices.
The defining quality of Black womanhood is strength, states Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant in Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. But, she argues, the idea of strength undermines its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring Black women’s experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary or defining quality of “authentic” Black womanhood.
The author, a noted sociologist, interviews 58 Black women about being strong and proud, to illustrate their “performance” of invulnerability. Beauboeuf-Lafontant explains how such behavior leads to serious symptoms for these women, many of whom suffer from eating disorders and depression.
Drawing on Black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and women’s history, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences of normative Black femininity, looking at how notions of self-image and strength create a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and power.
The Border and Its Bodies examines the impact of migration from Central America and México to the United States on the most basic social unit possible: the human body. It explores the terrible toll migration takes on the bodies of migrants—those who cross the border and those who die along the way—and discusses the treatment of those bodies after their remains are discovered in the desert.
The increasingly militarized U.S.-México border is an intensely physical place, affecting the bodies of all who encounter it. The essays in this volume explore how crossing becomes embodied in individuals, how that embodiment transcends the crossing of the line, and how it varies depending on subject positions and identity categories, especially race, class, and citizenship.
Timely and wide-ranging, this book brings into focus the traumatic and real impact the border can have on those who attempt to cross it, and it offers new perspectives on the effects for rural communities and ranchers. An intimate and profoundly human look at migration, The Border and Its Bodies reminds us of the elemental fact that the border touches us all.
Disability studies, a new field of inquiry in the human sciences, has the potential to unsettle many basic assumptions about the body, citizenship, capital, and beauty. This special issue of Public Culture explores disability criticism, an emergent subfield within disability studies. The articles in this collection build on recent work in the larger arena of disability studies and address such subjects as the hegemony of the concept of normalcy, the idea of the able body, and the constitutive place of disability in ethics, liberalism, and capitalism. The Critical Limits of Embodiment examines the commonsense foundations of disability studies, which tend to universalize Western norms and assumptions in which the normal is foregrounded and the able body forms the basis for the universal liberal subject. The broad geographic scope of these essays constitutes one of their greatest contributions to the field. In order to query the body-related universalisms of Western thought, the issue seeks to be self-conscious about cultural locations. The volume examines the figure of the disabled in the cultural imaginaries of a variety of historical, cultural, and disciplinary contexts including literature, anthropology, philosophy, and art history.
Contributors. Renu Addlakha, Carol A. Breckenridge, Veena Das, Faye Ginsburg, Wu Hung, Eva Kittay, Celeste Langan, David Mitchell, Rayna Rapp, Susan Schweik, Sharon Snyder, Candace Vogler, Hank Vogler
Considers the cultural and philosophical assumptions underlying virtual reality, and how the technology affects the real world.
Virtual reality is in the news and in the movies, on TV and in the air. Why is the technology--or the idea--so prevalent precisely now? What does it mean--what does it do--to us? Digital Sensations looks closely at the ways representational forms generated by communication technologies--especially digital/optical virtual technologies--affect the "lived" world.
Virtual reality, or VR, is a technological reproduction of the process of perceiving the real; yet that process is "filtered" through the social realities and embedded cultural assumptions about human bodies, perception, and space held by the technology's creators.
Through critical histories of the technology--of vision, light, space, and embodiment--Ken Hillis traces the various and often contradictory intellectual and metaphysical impulses behind the Western transcendental wish to achieve an ever more perfect copy of the real. Because virtual technologies are new, these histories also address the often unintended and underconsidered consequences--such as alienating new forms of surveillance and commodification--flowing from their rapid dissemination. Current and proposed virtual technologies reflect a Western desire to escape the body, Hillis says.
Exploring topics from VR and other, earlier visual technologies, Hillis's penetrating perspective on the cultural power of place and space broadens our view of the interplay between social relations and technology.
"His discussion is ambitious; not only does he bring together multiple disciplines and philosophies, he traces history from the Renaissance to the present." --Technical Communication Quarterly
"Ken Hillis has written a wise interrogation of the impact of virtual environments and the marriage of new digital and visual technologies. Carefully balancing between the dangers of all-too-common and too-easy skepticism and the risk of being seduced by the new medium, this book analyses the manner in which the use of technologies to produce virtual environments (VEs) changes the bases on which assumptions concerning democratic politics and identity flourish." --Space and Culture
Ken Hillis is assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and adjunct professor of geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Embodiment of a Nation
Cecelia TICHI Harvard University Press, 2001 Library of Congress E169.1.T543 2001 | Dewey Decimal 973
From Harriet Beecher Stowe's image of the Mississippi's "bosom" to Henry David Thoreau's Cape Cod as "the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts," the American environment has been represented in terms of the human body. Exploring such instances of embodiment, Cecelia Tichi exposes the historically varied and often contrary geomorphic expression of a national paradigm.
Commentators on the work of Immanuel Kant have long held that his later "critical" writings are a radical rejection of his earlier, less celebrated efforts. In this pathbreaking book, Susan Shell demonstrates not only the developmental unity of Kant's individual writings, but also the unity of his work and life experience.
Shell argues that the central animating issues of Kant's lifework concerned the perplexing relation of spirit to body. Through an exacting analysis of individual writings, Shell maps the philosophical contours of Kant's early intellectual struggles and their relation to his more mature thought. The paradox of mind in matter and the tensions it generates—between freedom and determinacy, independence and community, ideal and real—are shown to inform the whole of his work. Shell's fresh, penetrating analysis of the precritical works will surely catapult them to new prominence in Kant studies.
Shell's critique goes further to consider the context of contemporary intellectual life. She explores the fascinating realm of Kant's sexual and medical idiosyncracies, linking them to the primary concerns of his critical philosophy. She develops a sure-to-be controversial treatment of the connection between Kant's philosophy and his chronic hypochondria, and illuminates previously unforeseen connections in a remarkable convergence of life and thought, with important theoretical and practical implications for modern times.
Emerging in the 1940s, the first cybernetics—the study of communication and control systems—was mainstreamed under the names artificial intelligence and computer science and taken up by the social sciences, the humanities, and the creative arts. In Emergence and Embodiment, Bruce Clarke and Mark B. N. Hansen focus on cybernetic developments that stem from the second-order turn in the 1970s, when the cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster catalyzed new thinking about the cognitive implications of self-referential systems. The crucial shift he inspired was from first-order cybernetics’ attention to homeostasis as a mode of autonomous self-regulation in mechanical and informatic systems, to second-order concepts of self-organization and autopoiesis in embodied and metabiotic systems. The collection opens with an interview with von Foerster and then traces the lines of neocybernetic thought that have followed from his work.
In response to the apparent dissolution of boundaries at work in the contemporary technosciences of emergence, neocybernetics observes that cognitive systems are operationally bounded, semi-autonomous entities coupled with their environments and other systems. Second-order systems theory stresses the recursive complexities of observation, mediation, and communication. Focused on the neocybernetic contributions of von Foerster, Francisco Varela, and Niklas Luhmann, this collection advances theoretical debates about the cultural, philosophical, and literary uses of their ideas. In addition to the interview with von Foerster, Emergence and Embodiment includes essays by Varela and Luhmann. It engages with Humberto Maturana’s and Varela’s creation of the concept of autopoiesis, Varela’s later work on neurophenomenology, and Luhmann’s adaptations of autopoiesis to social systems theory. Taken together, these essays illuminate the shared commitments uniting the broader discourse of neocybernetics.
Contributors. Linda Brigham, Bruce Clarke, Mark B. N. Hansen, Edgar Landgraf, Ira Livingston, Niklas Luhmann, Hans-Georg Moeller, John Protevi, Michael Schiltz, Evan Thompson, Francisco J. Varela, Cary Wolfe
Western society has never been more interested in interiority. Indeed, it seems more and more people are deliberately looking inward—toward the mind, the body, or both. Michal Pagis’s Inward focuses on one increasingly popular channel for the introverted gaze: vipassana meditation, which has spread from Burma to more than forty countries and counting. Lacing her account with vivid anecdotes and personal stories, Pagis turns our attention not only to the practice of vipassana but to the communities that have sprung up around it. Inward is also a social history of the westward diffusion of Eastern religious practices spurred on by the lingering effects of the British colonial presence in India. At the same time Pagis asks knotty questions about what happens when we continually turn inward, as she investigates the complex relations between physical selves, emotional selves, and our larger social worlds. Her book sheds new light on evergreen topics such as globalization, social psychology, and the place of the human body in the enduring process of self-awareness.
In Materializing New Media, Anna Munster offers an alternative aesthetic genealogy for digital culture. Eschewing the prevailing Cartesian aesthetic that aligns the digital with the disembodied, the formless, and the placeless, Munster seeks to “materialize” digital culture by demonstrating that its aesthetics have reconfigured bodily experience and reconceived materiality. Her topics range from artistic experiments in body-computer interfaces to the impact that corporeal interaction and geopolitical circumstances have on producing new media art and culture. She argues that new media, materiality, perception, and artistic practices now mutually constitute “information aesthetics.” Information aesthetics is concerned with new modes of sensory engagement in which distributed spaces and temporal variation play crucial roles. In analyzing the experiments that new media art performs with the materiality of space and time, Munster demonstrates how new media has likewise changed our bodies and those of others in global information culture. Materializing New Media calls for a re-examination of the roles of both body and affect in their relation to the virtual and to abstract codes of information. It offers a nonlinear approach to aesthetics and art history based on a concept of “folding” that can discern certain kinds of proximities and continuations across distances in time (in particular between the Baroque and the digital). Finally, it analyzes digital culture through a logic of the differential rather than of the binary. This allows the author to overcome a habit of futurism, which until now has plagued analyses of new media art and culture. Technology is now not seen as surpassing the human body but continually reconfiguring it and constitutive of it.
At the dawn of the modern era, philosophers reinterpreted their subject as the study of consciousness, pushing the body to the margins of philosophy. With the arrival of Husserlian thought in the late nineteenth century, the body was once again understood to be part of the transcendental field. And yet, despite the enormous influence of Husserl’s phenomenology, the role of "embodiment" in the broader philosophical landscape remains largely unresolved. In his ambitious debut book, Phenomenology and Embodiment, Joona Taipale tackles the Husserlian concept—also engaging the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Michel Henry—with a comprehensive and systematic phenomenological investigation into the role of embodiment in the constitution of self-awareness, intersubjectivity, and objective reality. In doing so, he contributes a detailed clarification of the fundamental constitutive role of embodiment in the basic relations of subjectivity.
This special issue of differences addresses the realization that "nature" and "nurture" are now seen to be inseparably and dynamically related in the determination of human cultural expression, rather than divided as previously thought. Contributors delve into this dynamic relationship, approaching it particularly from a feminist perspective.
Contributors. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Petra Kuppers, Jennifer Reardon, Gayle Salamon, Elizabeth A. Wilson
In Reproducing the French Race, Elisa Camiscioli argues that immigration was a defining feature of early-twentieth-century France, and she examines the political, cultural, and social issues implicated in public debates about immigration and national identity at the time. Camiscioli demonstrates that mass immigration provided politicians, jurists, industrialists, racial theorists, feminists, and others with ample opportunity to explore questions of French racial belonging, France’s relationship to the colonial empire and the rest of Europe, and the connections between race and national anxieties regarding depopulation and degeneration. She also shows that discussions of the nation and its citizenry consistently returned to the body: its color and gender, its expenditure of labor power, its reproductive capacity, and its experience of desire. Of paramount importance was the question of which kinds of bodies could assimilate into the “French race.”
By focusing on telling aspects of the immigration debate, Camiscioli reveals how racial hierarchies were constructed, how gender figured in their creation, and how only white Europeans were cast as assimilable. Delving into pronatalist politics, she describes how potential immigrants were ranked according to their imagined capacity to adapt to the workplace and family life in France. She traces the links between racialized categories and concerns about industrial skills and output, and she examines medico-hygienic texts on interracial sex, connecting those to the crusade against prostitution and the related campaign to abolish “white slavery,” the alleged entrapment of (white) women for sale into prostitution abroad. Camiscioli also explores the debate surrounding the 1927 law that first made it possible for French women who married foreigners to keep their French nationality. She concludes by linking the Third Republic’s impulse to create racial hierarchies to the emergence of the Vichy regime.
In Shimmering Images Eliza Steinbock traces how cinema offers alternative ways to understand gender transitions through a specific aesthetics of change. Drawing on Barthes's idea of the “shimmer” and Foucault's notion of sex as a mirage, the author shows how sex and gender can appear mirage-like on film, an effect they label shimmering. Steinbock applies the concept of shimmering—which delineates change in its emergent form as well as the qualities of transforming bodies, images, and affects—to analyses of films that span time and genre. These include examinations of the fantastic and phantasmagorical shimmerings of sex change in Georges Méliès's nineteenth-century trick films and Lili Elbe's 1931 autobiographical writings and photomontage in Man into Woman. Steinbock also explores more recent documentaries, science fiction, and pornographic and experimental films. Presenting a cinematic philosophy of transgender embodiment that demonstrates how shimmering images mediate transitioning, Steinbock not only offers a corrective to the gender binary orientation of feminist film theory; they open up new means to understand trans ontologies and epistemologies as emergent, affective, and processual.
Memories that evoke the physical awareness of touch, smell, and bodily presence can be vital links to home for people living in diaspora from their culture of origin. How can filmmakers working between cultures use cinema, a visual medium, to transmit that physical sense of place and culture? In The Skin of the Film Laura U. Marks offers an answer, building on the theories of Gilles Deleuze and others to explain how and why intercultural cinema represents embodied experience in a postcolonial, transnational world.
Much of intercultural cinema, Marks argues, has its origin in silence, in the gaps left by recorded history. Filmmakers seeking to represent their native cultures have had to develop new forms of cinematic expression. Marks offers a theory of “haptic visuality”—a visuality that functions like the sense of touch by triggering physical memories of smell, touch, and taste—to explain the newfound ways in which intercultural cinema engages the viewer bodily to convey cultural experience and memory. Using close to two hundred examples of intercultural film and video, she shows how the image allows viewers to experience cinema as a physical and multisensory embodiment of culture, not just as a visual representation of experience. Finally, this book offers a guide to many hard-to-find works of independent film and video made by Third World diasporic filmmakers now living in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.
The Skin of the Film draws on phenomenology, postcolonial and feminist theory, anthropology, and cognitive science. It will be essential reading for those interested in film theory, experimental cinema, the experience of diaspora, and the role of the sensuous in culture.
Medieval European culture encompassed Judaic, Christian, Muslim, and pagan societies, forming a complex matrix of religious belief, identity, and imagination. Through incisive readings of a broad range of medieval texts and informed by poststructuralist, queer, and feminist theories, The Spectral Jew traces the Jewish presence in Western Europe to show how the body, gender, and sexuality were at the root of the construction of medieval religious anxieties, inconsistencies, and instabilities.
Looking closely at how medieval Jewish and Christian identities are distinguished from each other, yet intimately intertwined, Kruger demonstrates how Jews were often corporealized in ways that posited them as inferior to Christians—archaic and incapable of change—even as the two mutually shaped each other. But such attempts to differentiate Jews and Christians were inevitably haunted by the knowledge that Christianity had emerged out of Judaism and was, in its own self-understanding, a community of converts.
Examining the points of contact between Christian and Jewish communities, Kruger discloses the profound paradox of the Jew as different in all ways, yet capable of converting to fully Christian status. He draws from central medieval authors and texts such as Peter Damian, Guibert of Nogent, the Barcelona Disputation, and the Hebrew chronicles of the First Crusade, as well as lesser known writings such as the disputations of Ceuta, Majorca, and Tortosa and the immensely popular Dialogues of Peter Alfonsi.
By putting the conversion narrative at the center of this analysis, Kruger exposes it as a disruption of categories rather than a smooth passage and reveals the prominent role Judaism played in the medieval Christian imagination.
Steven F. Kruger is professor of English and medieval studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is author of several books and editor with Glenn Burger of Queering the Middle Ages (Minnesota, 2001).
A substantive exploration of bodies and embodiment in theatre
Theatre is inescapably about bodies. By definition, theatre requires the live bodies of performers in the same space and at the same time as the live bodies of an audience. And, yet, it’s hard to talk about bodies. We talk about characters; we talk about actors; we talk about costume and movement. But we often approach these as identities or processes layered onto bodies, rather than as inescapably entwined with them. Bodies on the theatrical stage hold the power of transformation. Theatre practitioners, scholars, and educators must think about what bodies go where onstage and what stories which bodies to tell.
The essays in Theatre Symposium, Volume 27 explore a broad range of issues related to embodiment. The volume begins with Rhonda Blair’s keynote essay, in which she provides an overview of the current cognitive science underpinning our understanding of what it means to be “embodied” and to talk about “embodiment.” She also provides a set of goals and cautions for theatre artists engaging with the available science on embodiment, while issuing a call for the absolute necessity for that engagement, given the primacy of the body to the theatrical act.
The following three essays provide examinations of historical bodies in performance. Timothy Pyles works to shift the common textual focus of Racinian scholarship to a more embodied understanding through his examination of the performances of the young female students of the Saint-Cyr academy in two of Racine’s Biblical plays. Shifting forward in time by three centuries, Travis Stern’s exploration of the auratic celebrity of baseball player Mike Kelly uncovers the ways in which bodies may retain the ghosts of their former selves long after physical ability and wealth are gone. Laurence D. Smith’s investigation of actress Manda Björling’s performances in Miss Julie provides a model for how cognitive science, in this case theories of cognitive blending, can be integrated with archival theatrical research and scholarship.
From scholarship grounded in analysis of historical bodies and embodiment, the volume shifts to pedagogical concerns. Kaja Amado Dunn’s essay on the ways in which careless selection of working texts can inflict embodied harm on students of color issues an imperative call for careful and intentional classroom practice in theatre training programs. Cohen Ambrose’s theorization of pedagogical cognitive ecologies, in which subjects usually taught disparately (acting, theatre history, costume design, for example) could be approached collaboratively and through embodiment, speaks to ways in which this call might be answered.
Tessa Carr’s essay on "The Integration of Tuskegee High School" brings together ideas of historical bodies and embodiment in the academic theatrical context through an examination of the process of creating a documentary theatre production. The final piece in the volume, Bridget Sundin’s exchange with the ghost of Marlene Dietrich, is an imaginative exploration of how it is possible to open the archive, to create new spaces for performance scholarship, via an interaction with the body.
Scott Dill’s A Theology of Sense: John Updike, Embodiment, and Late Twentieth-Century American Literature brings together theology, aesthetics, and the body, arguing that Updike, a central figure in post-1945 American literature, deeply embeds in his work questions of the body and the senses with questions of theology. Dill offers new understandings not only of the work of Updike—which is importantly being revisited since the author’s death in 2009—but also new understandings of the relationship between aesthetics, religion, and physical experience.
Dill explores Updike’s unique literary legacy in order to argue for a genuinely postsecular theory of aesthetic experience. Each chapter takes up one of the five senses and its relation to broader theoretical concerns: affect, subjectivity, ontology, ethics, and theology. While placing Updike’s work in relation to other late twentieth-century American writers, Dill explains their notions of embodiment and uses them to render a new account of postsecular aesthetics. No other novelist has portrayed mere sense experience as carefully, as extensively, or as theologically—repeatedly turning to the doctrine of creation as his stylistic justification. Across this examination of his many stories, novels, poems, and essays, Dill proves that Updike forces us to reconsider the power of literature to revitalize sense experience as a theological question.
This collection breaks new ground in the area of gender studies both because it creates a name for gender fantasy--virtual gender--that introduces a new understanding of the concept, and in expanding the idea of virtuality to include people and events in history. The essays in Virtual Gender help identify and name the persistent cultural desire for an imaginative space in which to "put on" alternative gender identities, while examining as well the equally persistent and consequent critique of that desire.
The sweep of the volume's coverage is impressive, ranging across historical periods and academic disciplines, as contributors consider the place of the body in gender fantasy and the consequences of gender fantasy for real people and real bodies. The essays investigate figures and topics including Amelia Earhart, soap-opera chat groups, Elizabeth I, mesmerism, lesbianism in the early modern period, cybergames, women in the federalist period, the transgendered body, and performance art. Also examined are the status of embodiment, the origins of gender, gender politics, the pains of subjectivity, the uses of utopian fantasy, technological advances and information technology, the experience of gendered communities, and the role of gender in global politics.
Contributors include Harriette Andreadis, Seyla Benhabib, Charlotte Canning, Bernice Hausman, Janel Mueller, Mary Ann O'Farrell, Kay Schaffer, Sidonie Smith, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Helen F. Thompson, Lynne Vallone, and Robyn Warhol. The book will appeal to an interdisciplinary audience of scholars, critics, and students with interests in gender, identity, and cyberculture.
Mary Ann O'Farrell is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University. Lynne Vallone is Associate Professor of English, Texas A & M University.