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Many Mirrors
Body Image and Social Relations
Edited by Nicole Sault
Rutgers University Press, 1994

“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.

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front cover of Marks of Distinctions
Marks of Distinctions
Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High Middle Ages
Irven M. Resnick
Catholic University of America Press, 2012
Through the use of several illustrations from illuminated manuscripts and other media, Resnick engages readers in a discussion of the later medieval notion of Jewish difference.
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Matters of Gravity
Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century
Scott Bukatman
Duke University Press, 2003
The headlong rush, the rapid montage, the soaring superhero, the plunging roller coaster—Matters of Gravity focuses on the experience of technological spectacle in American popular culture over the past century. In these essays, leading media and cultural theorist Scott Bukatman reveals how popular culture tames the threats posed by technology and urban modernity by immersing people in delirious kinetic environments like those traversed by Plastic Man, Superman, and the careening astronauts of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Right Stuff. He argues that as advanced technologies have proliferated, popular culture has turned the attendant fear of instability into the thrill of topsy-turvydom, often by presenting images and experiences of weightless escape from controlled space.

Considering theme parks, cyberspace, cinematic special effects, superhero comics, and musical films, Matters of Gravity highlights phenomena that make technology spectacular, permit unfettered flights of fantasy, and free us momentarily from the weight of gravity and history, of past and present. Bukatman delves into the dynamic ways pop culture imagines that apotheosis of modernity: the urban metropolis. He points to two genres, musical films and superhero comics, that turn the city into a unique site of transformative power. Leaping in single bounds from lively descriptions to sharp theoretical insights, Matters of Gravity is a deft, exhilarating celebration of the liberatory effects of popular culture.

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front cover of Medicalized Masculinities
Medicalized Masculinities
edited by Dana Rosenfeld and Christopher A. Faircloth
Temple University Press, 2006
When medicalization—the characterization of human traits in terms of disease and ailment—first appeared as a concept in the 1970s, most social science gender scholarship focused on female or genderless bodies. The work on men, health, and medicine was scant and tended to depict masculinity as intrinsically damaging to men's health.

Medicalized Masculinities considers how these threads in scholarship failed to consider the male body adequately and presents cutting-edge research into the definition and regulation of masculinity by medicine. Renowned health and gender studies experts examine medicalized conditions such as balding, aging, and other dimensions of the life cycle in the tradition of the sociology of health and gender.
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front cover of Medieval Identity Machines
Medieval Identity Machines
Jeffrey J. Cohen
University of Minnesota Press, 2003

A provocative new approach to medieval culture

In Medieval Identity Machines, Jeffrey J. Cohen examines the messiness, permeability, and perversity of medieval bodies, arguing that human identity always exceeds the limits of the flesh. Combining critical theory with a rigorous reading of medieval texts, Cohen asks if the category “human” isn’t too small to contain the multiplicity of identities. As such, this book is the first to argue for a “posthuman” Middle Ages and to make extensive use of the philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze to rethink the medieval.

Among the topics that Cohen covers are the passionate bond between men and horses in chivalric training; the interrelation of demons, celibacy, and colonialism in an Anglo-Saxon saint’s life; Lancelot’s masochism as envisioned by Chrétien de Troyes; the voice of thunder echoing from Margery Kempe; and the fantasies that sustained some dominant conceptions of race. This tour of identity—in all its fragility and diffusion—illustrates the centrality of the Middle Ages to theory as it enhances our understanding of self, embodiment, and temporality in the medieval world.
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front cover of The Memory of Bones
The Memory of Bones
Body, Being, and Experience among the Classic Maya
By Stephen Houston, David Stuart, and Karl Taube
University of Texas Press, 2006

All of human experience flows from bodies that feel, express emotion, and think about what such experiences mean. But is it possible for us, embodied as we are in a particular time and place, to know how people of long ago thought about the body and its experiences? In this groundbreaking book, three leading experts on the Classic Maya (ca. AD 250 to 850) marshal a vast array of evidence from Maya iconography and hieroglyphic writing, as well as archaeological findings, to argue that the Classic Maya developed a coherent approach to the human body that we can recover and understand today.

The authors open with a cartography of the Maya body, its parts and their meanings, as depicted in imagery and texts. They go on to explore such issues as how the body was replicated in portraiture; how it experienced the world through ingestion, the senses, and the emotions; how the body experienced war and sacrifice and the pain and sexuality that were intimately bound up in these domains; how words, often heaven-sent, could be embodied; and how bodies could be blurred through spirit possession.

From these investigations, the authors convincingly demonstrate that the Maya conceptualized the body in varying roles, as a metaphor of time, as a gendered, sexualized being, in distinct stages of life, as an instrument of honor and dishonor, as a vehicle for communication and consumption, as an exemplification of beauty and ugliness, and as a dancer and song-maker. Their findings open a new avenue for empathetically understanding the ancient Maya as living human beings who experienced the world as we do, through the body.

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front cover of Metamorphoses Of The Body
Metamorphoses Of The Body
Jose Gil
University of Minnesota Press, 1998

front cover of Modern Sovereign
Modern Sovereign
The Body of Power in Central Africa (Congo and Gabon)
Joseph Tonda
Seagull Books, 2020
The “Modern Sovereign,” a notion indebted both to Hobbes’s Leviathan and Marx’s conception of capital, refers to the power that governed the African multitudes from the earliest colonial days to the post-colonial era. It is an internalized power, responsible for the multiform violence exerted on bodies and imaginations. Joseph Tonda contends that in Central Africa—and particularly in Gabon and the Congo—the body is at the heart of political, religious, sexual, economic, and ritual power. This, he argues, is confirmed by the strong link between corporeal and political matters, and by the ostentatious display of bodies in African life. The body of power asserts itself as both matter and spirit, and it incorporates the seductive force of money, commodities, sex, and knowledge. Tonda’s incisive analysis reveals how this sovereign power is a social relation, historically constituted by the violence of the African cultural Imaginary and the realities of State, Market, and Church. It is to be understood, he asserts, through a generalized theory economic, political, and religious fetishism. By introducing this crucial critical voice from contemporary Africa into the English language, The Modern Sovereign makes a significant contribution to field of anthropology, political science, and African studies.
 
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front cover of Molded in the Image of Changing Woman
Molded in the Image of Changing Woman
Navajo Views on the Human Body and Personhood
Maureen Trudelle Schwarz
University of Arizona Press, 1997
What might result from hearing a particular song, wearing used clothing, or witnessing an accident? Ethnographic accounts of the Navajo refer repeatedly to the influences of events on health and well-being, yet until now no attempt has been made to clarify the Navajo system of rules governing association and effect.

This book focuses on the complex interweaving of the cosmological, social, and bodily realms that Navajo people navigate in an effort alternately to control, contain, or harness the power manifested in various effects. Following the Navajo life-course from conception to puberty, Maureen Trudelle Schwarz explores the complex rules defining who or what can affect what or whom in specific circumstances as a means of determining what these effects tell us about the cultural construction of the human body and personhood for the Navajo.

Schwarz shows how oral history informs Navajo conceptions of the body and personhood, showing how these conceptions are central to an ongoing Navajo identity. She treats the vivid narratives of emergence life-origins as compressed metaphorical accounts, rather than as myth, and is thus able to derive from what individual Navajos say about the past their understandings of personhood in a worldview that is actually a viable philosophical system. Working with Navajo religious practitioners, elders, and professional scholars. Schwarz has gained from her informants an unusually firm grasp of the Navajo highlighted by the foregrounding of Navajo voices through excerpts of interviews. These passages enliven the book and present Schwarz and her Navajo consultants as real, multifaceted human beings within the ethnographic context.
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front cover of Mortuary Landscapes of the Classic Maya
Mortuary Landscapes of the Classic Maya
Rituals of Body and Soul
By Andrew K. Scherer
University of Texas Press, 2015

From the tombs of the elite to the graves of commoners, mortuary remains offer rich insights into Classic Maya society. In Mortuary Landscapes of the Classic Maya: Rituals of Body and Soul, the anthropological archaeologist and bioarchaeologist Andrew K. Scherer explores the broad range of burial practices among the Maya of the Classic period (AD 250–900), integrating information gleaned from his own fieldwork with insights from the fields of iconography, epigraphy, and ethnography to illuminate this society’s rich funerary traditions.

Scherer’s study of burials along the Usumacinta River at the Mexican-Guatemalan border and in the Central Petén region of Guatemala—areas that include Piedras Negras, El Kinel, Tecolote, El Zotz, and Yaxha—reveals commonalities and differences among royal, elite, and commoner mortuary practices. By analyzing skeletons containing dental and cranial modifications, as well as the adornments of interred bodies, Scherer probes Classic Maya conceptions of body, wellness, and the afterlife.

Scherer also moves beyond the body to look at the spatial orientation of the burials and their integration into the architecture of Maya communities. Taking a unique interdisciplinary approach, the author examines how Classic Maya deathways can expand our understanding of this society’s beliefs and traditions, making Mortuary Landscapes of the Classic Maya an important step forward in Mesoamerican archeology.

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front cover of Muscle Works
Muscle Works
Physical Culture and the Performance of Masculinity
Broderick D. V. Chow
Northwestern University Press, 2024
Men’s fitness as a performancefrom nineteenth-century theatrical exhibitions to health and wellness practices today
 
This book recounts the story of fitness culture from its beginnings as spectacles of strongmen, weightlifters, acrobats, and wrestlers to its legitimization in the twentieth-century in the form of competitive sports and health and wellness practices. Broderick D. V. Chow shows how these modes of display contribute to the construction and deconstruction of definitions of masculinity.
 
Attending to its theatrical origins, Chow argues for a more nuanced understanding of fitness culture, one informed by the legacies of self-described Strongest Man in the World Eugen Sandow and the history of fakery in strongman performance; the philosophy of weightlifter George Hackenschmidt and the performances of martial artist Bruce Lee; and the intersections of fatigue, resistance training, and whiteness. Muscle Works: Physical Culture and the Performance of Masculinity moves beyond the gym and across the archive, working out techniques, poses, and performances to consider how, as gendered subjects, we inhabit and make worlds through our bodies.
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