What kind of artefact is the lived body?

I found the description of the theme of this conference and the questions raised to be thought provoking and worth sharing:

Practices and their Bodies. What Kind of Artefact is the Lived Body?

  • Transdisciplinary Conference, April 25th-27th 2013, University of Mainz (Germany)
  • Keynote Speakers (confirmed): Chris Shilling (University of Kent), Annemarie Mol (University of Amsterdam), Paul Stoller (West Chester University), Gesa Lindemann (University of Oldenburg) und Martin Dinges (University of Mannheim).

The human body as the subject of research still sits very firmly in the grasp of the natural sciences. Nevertheless, cultural studies and social sciences have put forward two fundamental insights on the body vis-à-vis established biomedical knowledge. Firstly, both anthropological and phenomenological approaches have delved into the inner perspective of our inhabited bodies by viewing the ‘lived body’  as the foundation of all cognition and as the fundamental site of sensory perception, personality, and subjectivity. Secondly, ethnological and historical semantic studies have shed light on the extreme variability of ‘the body’ subject to societal knowledge regimes. Human bodies span an infinite plurality of cultural classifications and historical discourses – a bundle of linguistic categories, medical imaging, interpretation and explanation patterns. Our natural scientific knowledge of the body is part of historically and culturally specific ethnosemantics.

This conference proposes a third fundamental sociocultural way of viewing the body, namely as a component of material culture. In recent years the term practices has oftentimes been used to express this perspective – a conception of human action and behaviour that places controlled bodily movement at the centre of social life. As a part of material culture the body is without doubt an artefact. It has limited capabilities, is practically shaped by food, medicine, and socialisation, and wears out through practical use. However, it is a special material thing: it can learn, i.e., through usage it is materially (re)shaped, disciplined, and is impregnated with habits, and it can specialise in body techniques: instrumental music, handicraft, sports, martial arts, and sex, to just name a handful of such specialisation possibilities. Continue reading

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