Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Body, Society and Culture

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit will explore the ways that social relations, norms and expectations impact the body and the individual’s lived experience of embodiment, paying particular attention to issues of power, control and reflexivity.

It will be broadly split into three areas:

1) Exploration of the concept of embodiment and ‘the lived body’, as the sociological response to Cartesian mind-body dualism (Merleau-Ponty, Crossley) visiting issues such as embodied emotions (Bendelow) , and pain and the dys-appearing body (Leder);
2) Focus on the social processes involved in nurturing the body as a source of physical or symbolic capital (Bourdieu, Crossley);
3) Regulating the body – focusing on issues such as consumer culture, gender norms, medicine and health (Foucault, Turner, Bordo, Bartky, Conboy).

Study-unit Aims:

- This study-unit provides a framework for better understanding the role of social factors in shaping and regulating the human body.
- The body will be analysed as a central object of transformation in the process of reflexivity, socialization and lived experience.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• Refer to classical and contemporary theorists to describe the concept of embodiment as a dynamic social process;
• Refer to the literature to describe and discuss the processes by which individual bodies, and populations are controlled;
• Critically discuss the commodification of the body in contemporary society;
• Present a reasoned and well-structured assignment on a set topic using recognized referencing methods and bibliographical presentation;
• Contribute effectively and confidently, using logical arguments and applying the relevant theorists, during focused group discussions.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• Think critically about the impact of social life on the body/embodiment during classroom discussions and written assessments, and use classical/contemporary sociological theory to address it;
• Use online and library resources selectively and critically to augment study-unit material.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Crossley, N. (2001). The social body: Habit, identity and desire. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage.
Davis K. (Ed.) (1997), Embodied practices: Feminist perspectives on the body (pp. 1-23). London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE.
Shilling, C. (2012). The body and social theory Sage.
Williams, S. J., & Bendelow, G. (1998). The lived body. sociological themes ,embodied issues. London & New York: Routledge.

Supplementary texts:

Bordo, S. (2003). Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture, and the body. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1996). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge.
Conboy, K., Medina, N., & Stanbury, S. (1997). Writing on the body: Female embodiment and feminist theory Columbia University Press.
Crossley, N. (2004). Fat is a sociological issue: Obesity rates in late modern, 'body conscious' societies. Social Theory and Health, 2, 222-253.
Crossley, N. (2006). Reflexive embodiment in contemporary society. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.
Davis K. (Ed.) (1997), Embodied practices: Feminist perspectives on the body (pp. 1-23). London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE.
Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison Penguin Group.
Freund, P. E. S. (1988). Bringing society into the body: Understanding socialized human nature. Theory and Society, Vol.17(No.6), pp.839-864.
Leder, D. (1990). The absent body University of Chicago Press.
Turner, B. S. (1991). Missing bodies- towards a sociology of embodiment. Sociology of Health & Illness, Vol.13(No.2), pp.265-272.
Williams, S. J. (1995). Theorising class, health and lifestyles: Can bourdieu help us? Sociology of Health & Illness, Vol.17(No.5), pp.577-604.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation SEM2 Yes 30%
Assignment SEM2 Yes 70%

LECTURER/S Gillian M. Martin

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.