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Why the Body?
an introduction to the digital companion
Because bodies are more than sacks of cells. They influence how we understand ourselves and interact with the world. Whenever you get a cold, when your hands click a keyboard, walking down Church Street, or even touching your screen as you navigate through this digital companion are only a few examples that point to the many ways your body matters in how you interact with the world. Bodies impact how we understand ourselves and how we interact with others in our communities. They inform how we understand physical difference and identity in the past and present.
Our bodies are also contested, questioned, and consumed. Some seem to matter more than others. Bodies are disciplined and controlled. They are managed and maintained. This digital companion includes a mix of scholarly articles, book chapters, online essays, videos, and images that will help you interrogate the nature of embodiment in different places and time periods. Some will be required readings or screenings while other artifacts are there for you to explore on your own.
Overview of Bodies: A Digital Companion
The digital companion will help you examine key concepts of the body and embodiment from the disciplinary perspectives of sociology, biology, philosophy, religious studies, and media studies. Studying the body is an interdisciplinary endeavor, and our goal is to offer you the opportunity to explore the body from multiple perspectives. You will learn about how different bodies are represented in different media. You will examine the representation of bodies in a variety of contexts, how they have historically been imbued with specific sets of cultural values that privilege certain viewpoints and perspectives over others. You will dig into the intersectionality of gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and ability. You will recognize how bodies—dead and alive, human and nonhuman, actual and virtual—are subject to power relations. You will become aware of myriad ways the body influences their phenomenal experience of the world, and how we understand our place within it.
As you navigate through this book, you will see that it is different from a normal textbook that summarizes (and standardizes) a particular field of study or a course reader that compiles articles you will need to read for this course in a single publication. Each chapter begins with a short essay about a key concept or theme related to body studies. Embedded in these short essays are links to articles, videos, and images cited by the author. At the conclusion of the short essay, you will also see a list of "tags" of other media artifacts connected to the key concept or theme in some way.
Organization of Bodies: A Digital Companion
This companion is more of a digital repository containing a ton of artifacts about the body and embodiment only a portion of which you will be assigned for class. Every reading and screening is tagged by or tags other readings or screenings, which helps you dig into a topic or uncover how a certain artifact connects with others in the companion. There is also a direct path leading through the five major keywords—embodiment, cultural norm, bodily difference, stigma, and intersectionality—that organize the core of this book. It concludes with a methodologies page, which will explain the different approaches you will use to analyze the body. Each focus section also has its own chapter, which includes its own unique path through the different chapters and media artifacts (articles, videos, images) collected together in this companion. To find something specific, you can also use one of the Visualizations (e.g. Connections) in the pulldown menu to the left or the search button.
Studying the body demands interdisciplinary, integrative approaches. The organization of Bodies: A Digital Companion will help you make connections between different disciplines, fields, and perspectives in order to uncover the power role the body plays in understanding the past, present, and future of nothing less than our own humanity.
Katheryn Wright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Core Division