Social Body and Embodied Subject: Bodiliness, Subjectivity, and Sociality among the Kayapo

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Essay Excerpt

The meteoric rise of "the body" to the status of a primary category of social and cultural theory, replacing more collective categories of social and cultural understanding like "society" and "culture" themselves, has been one of the most salient aspects of the development of postmodern forms of cultural theory over the past two decades. The reasons for this turn to the body have remained shrouded in confusion despite the voluminous discussion it has occasioned. Even some of the main exemplars and partisans of the new body focus have been at a loss to account for it. Martin, for example, suggests that the body has come so prominently into focus because a new body, suitable to the postmodern era of "flexible accumulation," is now replacing the old, familiar body of the previous capitalist era of Fordist mass production (Martin 1992). This formulation, however, merely exemplifies the problem it sets out to solve. Why do we suddenly find it appropriate to speak of a new regime of social production in terms of a unique body it supposedly brings into being? Why did not social thinkers, cultural theorists, or just ordinary folks of the previous Fordist era conceive of their own era in such terms? Like social thinkers of most, if not all, previous historical epochs and modes of production, they would doubtless have found the characterization of their era in terms of the appearance of a new body (as distinct from a new style of representing the body) bizarre and mystifying. Martin's formulation therefore seems to me to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution (143).

Turner, Terence. "Social Body and Embodied Subject: Bodiliness, Subjectivity, and Sociality among the Kayapo." Cultural Anthropology 10.2(1995): 143–170.

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