Jessica A. Johnson
Surveys classic anthropological literature examining the relationship between culture and the body. Examines Euroamerican body culture historically. Explores how the body is represented in mass media and the effects this has on everyday body ideologies.
This course uses interdisciplinary approaches to examine bodies as processes, at once socially contested and materially shaped. We will explore how the body is a site of cultural struggle in relation to concepts of power, systems of representation, and questions of identity. This investigation asks how the body is negotiated through a variety of institutional and affective spaces, including those produced by the media, education, performing/visual arts, medicine, and law. We inquire as to how relationships between the body and discourses of difference form, interrupt, and destabilize our understandings and experiences of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality; notions of ‘normalcy,’ ‘health,’ and ‘fitness.’
One focus of our analysis is to critically read how the body is disciplined and managed by the circulation of certain standards in newspaper articles, magazine ads, multicultural education, medical studies, and legal rights activism. Another concentration of our study is to consider how the body is an instrument (intentional or not) of political action that challenges such norms. Although much of this course is grounded in materials generated from a U.S. cultural perspective, we will question how the distribution of bodies and body-knowledge is crucial to configurations of the U.S. nation-state as well as transnational flows of capital.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This course is organized as a seminar with in-class writing prompts and small group work leading into large group discussions. Each week, we will establish key terms and examine course topics through theoretical, ethnographic, literary, and visual texts (e.g., magazine ads, documentary/fictional films, performance art).
Class assignments and grading
Thoughtful contribution to class discussions is a key component of your grade. Close reading and critical assessment of the assigned texts are necessary to complete the required written work, which includes four short journaling assignments (2-3 pages) and a final project/presentation.
Class Participation 20% Journaling Assignments 40% Final Project/Presentation 40%