Sociology and Criminology

The Body (Aut)

Module code: L4118A
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay

The body as real and material (as well as constructed) has been side-lined in Sociology. Yet, its vulnerability to disease, death, risks such as climate change, to social and political control and activism– witnessed now in the protests in Iran – warfare and the rise of rights talk around the body, such trans rights, means it should occupy a central place in Sociology. In this module students will have the opportunity to explore a range of controversial and intriguing questions that render something as real as the body amenable to social scientific analysis with an international focus – Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It will address a wide range of areas of keen interest to today’s students. It will look at debates about bodily materiality and performativity – drawing on the work of authors such as Goffman, Bourdieu, Fanon, Arendt, Butler and Puar - and state regulation of bodies deemed undesirable (asylum seekers/refugees/non-binary) through the use of torture and maiming, It will also consider the gendered aspects of regulating bodies, such as war rape, torture, nationalism/populism and the sexing of the nation. These case studies will examine the vulnerability of the body – to physical decay and abuse – and attempts to retake control of the way it has been subjected to control by states and societal debates and activism around identity and the rise of rights claims around embodiment (e.g. cutting hair by protesters in Iran). The module will have a core theoretical question (materiality versus constructionism) running through a range of substantive case studies designed to provoke and engage debate and discussion and it will complement Criminology in its consideration of bodily abuse, integrity, rights and control. Throughout the module, relevant current affairs will be dealt with and students will engage with scholarly work, journalism and novels to explore both the vulnerability and power of the body.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of classical and contemporary theories of the body.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of case studies rights claims around the body.
  • Apply the theoretical concepts/frameworks covered in the module to empirical examples, in order to critically analyse these examples.
  • Critically assess the dominant conception of the body as socially constructed and engage in the idea of the body as having real, material constraints.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of current political debates from scholarly and non-academic sources