The Body: current controversies and debates

Module code: L4029B
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

The body has recently become a key focus for sociological theorising and research. Much of this work has focused on defining the body as a socially constructed phenomenon, and exploring how it is produced through various social and cultural practices and discourses, and categories such as gender, class, race and sexual orientation. However, the body is also highly politically charged; a key site at which oppression is meted out, and is a focus of regulation and governance at individual, group, national and international levels. Bodies, and particularly women's bodies, are also at the nexus of some of the most controversial debates of our time.  

This module looks at the politics of the body from a sociological point of view, exploring themes of embodiment and power through a variety of controversial issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual violence, sex work, abortion, cosmetic surgery and eugenics. You will think through various debates in relation to a broad canon of theories from feminism and sociology, around notions such as rights, bodily autonomy and integrity, structures and discourses, and the formation and regulation of identities. Gender will be a central thread throughout, and attention will be paid to how it intersects with other social categories such as class, 'race', sexual orientation, age, and (dis)ability.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of a variety of feminist and sociological perspectives for understanding the politics of the body
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the importance of bodies as sites for oppression and regulation
  • Assimilate and evaluate evidence from recent academic research which is of relevance to the theoretical frameworks covered in the course
  • Critically explore controversial political debates about issues to do with the body
  • Make appropriate use of both empirical data and theoretical work to produce coherent and detailed written work for an academic audience