The Body: Social Science Perspectives


***This course counts as a social science course for SLU core requirements***

cyborg olympics

Course Description

This course will make you more body-conscious – but not in the way you might imagine. Though fifteen weeks of readings, films, discussions, and an individualized fieldwork project, you will study the body in order to better understand identity formation, economic relations, power inequalities – even the future of humanity as we know it. Our main goal is to replace assumptions about the body as natural and universal with social scientific approaches to the body as historically and culturally constructed.

Course Goals

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Be able to identify and apply key social science perspectives used in anthropological studies of the body.
  • Learn critical theories of the body as it relates to labor, gender, race, technology, kinship, and government.
  • Conduct independent field research in a bodily practice and analyze the experience using approaches learned in class.
  • Have fun!

Course themes/schedule (subject to change)

Weeks 1 and 2:          Disciplined Bodies and Labor

Weeks 3 and 4:          Social Bodies

Weeks 5 and 6:          Phenomenology and Embodiment

Weeks 7 and 8:          Biopower and Population Health

Weeks 9 and 10:        Gender, Beauty, and Local Biologies

Weeks 11 and 12:      Racialized Bodies

Weeks 13 and 14:      Commodified and Cyborg Bodies

End of Semester:      Student Presentations            

Example Assignment

Field Project (30% of final grade): Over the course of the semester, you will engage in a form of bodily practice that is new to you. The choices are endless. For example, the practice you choose may be primarily athletic (running, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, swimming, water aerobics, gymnastics, zumba, weight training, martial arts), meditative (yoga, mindfulness training), creative/communicative (pottery, photography, dance, American Sign Language, Japanese tea ceremony, knitting), health-focused (massage, acupuncture). You should participate in the activity 5-6 times over the semester, keeping field notes of your experiences. This project culminates in a paper and class presentation in which you describe and analyze the practice using theories learned in the course.

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