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  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenors: Yasmeen Narayan and Silvia Posocco
  • Assessment: two 2500-word essays (50% each) plus a 500-word reflexive piece and group presentation

Module description

The first part of this interdisciplinary module stretches across the social sciences and arts and humanities. It is framed by contemporary discussions on histories of empire and the formation of modern Britain, the global pandemic, new authoritarian populisms and resurgent anti-racist political cultures across the world. Bodies explores debates on psychosocial studies and postcoloniality; histories of colonisation and the multidisciplinary production of ‘modern bodies’; colonial cultures, nationalism, class and ‘respectability’; histories of the concept of ‘identity’; postcolonial belonging, urban cultures and diaspora and global multiculture, ‘race’ and ‘beauty’. It then turns to debates on criminalisation, policing and community resistance and racial nationalisms and religious authoritarian movements. It concludes by examining postcolonial, psychopolitical approaches to racialised subjectification and ‘whiteness’ before returning to debates on the ethics, silences and potential political contradictions of psychosocial studies.

The second part of the module introduces you to key debates in the study of the body and embodiment in the social sciences and the humanities, and is divided into four sections: The Social Body, The Phenomenological Body, Body Politics, The Body Multiple. Key concepts and perspectives covered include:

  • Techniques of the Body
  • Symbols, Social Skin, Bodiliness
  • Structuralism, Nature and Culture, Sex and Gender
  • Cultural Phenomenology, Embodiment and Experience
  • Pain, Somatic Cultures and the Materiality of Domination
  • The Senses and Sensorial Memory
  • Circuits of Commodification and Exchange
  • Bodily Transformation, Body Projects, Aesthetics
  • Bodies of Bioscience and Bioethics
  • Bodies, Virtuality, Shifting Scales

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should have:

  • a working knowledge of the conceptual tools for addressing the place of the body in debates over identities and differences across the lifecycle
  • an ability to think critically about whether bodies are best seen as merely biological or ‘natural’, or, rather, as rendered meaningful through the diverse cultural forces impinging upon them
  • a capacity to appreciate the possibilities and perils of moving between biological, psychological, social and cultural understandings of the body, when reflecting on the dilemmas and anxieties of the present.