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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Postgraduate Course: The Anthropology of the Body (SCAN11026)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course engages with both established and developing contemporary scholarship and debates concerning anthropological approaches to the body.

The course aims to enrich and supplement broader disciplinary studies across medical and political anthropology, as well as scholarship concerned with material culture.
Course description Now more than ever the body and its forms have become entangled in and around debates across a swathe of academic scholarship and current affairs issues of broader public concern. From questions around the biological modification and technological transformation of the individual body to moral quandaries around the movement, disappearance, and substantiation of certain kinds of bodies at particular times and places, concern with the body increasingly saturates public debate and activity. Yet, despite its centrality as an object or subject of focus, the body appears ever more unstable and destabilising a presence.

This course links together established scholarship in the anthropology of the body with debates on the issue of the body as it is relevant to broader social phenomena. The course will touch upon core epistemological debates concerning the body covering, for example, work in the fields of phenomenology, embodiment, and biopolitics. These core issues will be embedded in established and contemporary debates which have surrounded the body as an object and subject constituting and constituted by broader social phenomena. We will discuss for example, the body in death, the body as a focus of the biomedical gaze; and the body as articulated in contemporary and historical political, economic, and creative movements, including for instance in colonial regimes, as an artefact for museum and memorial spaces, and as a commodity marketed for consumption.

Indicative topics:

The phenomenological body
- In what ways could we argue the mind, emotion, and the body are associated?
- How might culture mediate sensory experience?

The body under surveillance
- How is the physical body governed/regulated via surveillance?
- What anxieties surround surveillance of the body, or the absence of surveillance?

The medical body
- How is the body medicalized and what are the connotations of this?
- How is the medicalisation of bodies entangled with and governed by broader social categories?

The dead body
- How and why does the dead body matter in death?
- What do dead bodies do?

The body in the Anthropocene
- How has technology changed the nature of the body and what are the implications for its form and significance?
- What form will future bodies take?
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical knowledge and advanced understanding of the key theories, concepts and issues central to the anthropological study of the body.
  2. Critically analyze, synthesize, and evaluate research and contemporary debates about the body as well as navigate complex issues to form informed opinions and analyses.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to question, examine, and understand key anthropological issues through independent research.
  4. Communicate through empirically grounded and theoretically informed written work their knowledge of issues relevant to the anthropology of the body and its relevance to broader contemporary debates on and in society.
Reading List
Foucault, Michel (1980) Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books. Chapter 3: Body/power and Chapter 8: The eye of Power

(readings from) Lock, M and J Farquhar. 2007. Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the Anthropology of Material Life. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Including: Bynum Walker, Caroline, Women Mystics and Eucharistic Devotion in the Thirteenth Century (P.2012-212), and Mauss, Marcel, Techniques of the Body (P. 50).

Comaroff, John and Jean Comaroff (1992) Medicine, Colonialism, and the Black Body.
Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Westview Press. pp. 215-234.

Jackson, M (1983) Thinking Through the Body: An Essay on Understanding Metaphor Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice 14: 126-149.

Hallam, Elizabeth (2016) Anatomy Museum: death and the body displayed. London: Reaktion Books.

Haynes, Patrice (2014) Creative Becoming and the Patiency of Matter: Feminism, New Materialism and Theology Angelika: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 19(1): 129-150.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - make effective use of oral, written and visual means to negotiate, create and communicate critical understanding;

- seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;

- transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;

- use an anthropological approach to understand and act on social, cultural, and political issues surrounding questions of the body and its form and function;

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Laura Major
Tel: (0131 6)51 1329
Course secretaryMiss Becky Guthrie
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