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Is Popular Culture Separate from our Bodies?

MC3577 - Popular Culture Paul Bowman - Cardiff University

Paul Bowman

on 12 November 2015

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Transcript of Is Popular Culture Separate from our Bodies?

All of us, men as much as women, are caught up in modes of self-production and self-observation; these modes may entwine us in various networks of power, but never do they render us merely passive and compliant.
The more or less permanent etching of even the civilized body by discursive systems is perhaps easier to read if the civilized body is decontextualized, stripped of clothing and adornment, behaviorally displayed in its nakedness. The naked European/ American/ African/ Asian/ Australian body (and clearly even within these categories there is enormous cultural variation) is still marked by its disciplinary history, by its habitual patterns of movement, by the corporeal commitments it has undertaken in day-to-day life. It is in no sense a natural body, for it is as culturally, racially, sexually, possibly even as class distinctive, as it would be if it were clothed.
Not only does what the body takes into itself (diet in the first instance) effect a "surface inscription" of the body; the body is also incised by various forms of adornment. Through exercise and habitual patterns of movement, through negotiating its environment whether this be rural or urban, and through clothing and makeup, the body is more or less marked, constituted as an appropriate, or, as the case may be, an inappropriate body, for its cultural requirements. It is crucial to note that these different procedures of corporeal inscription do not simply adorn or add to a body that is basically given through biology; they help constitute the very biological organization of the subject – the subject's height, weight, coloring, even eye color, are constituted as such by a constitutive interweaving of genetic and environmental factors.
The body is involuntarily marked, but it is also incised through "voluntary" procedures, life-styles, habits, and behaviors. Makeup, stilettos, bras, hair sprays, clothing, underclothing mark women's bodies, whether black or white, in ways in which hair styles, professional training, personal grooming, gait, posture, bodybuilding, and sports may mark men's. There is nothing natural or ahistorical about these modes of corporeal inscription. Through them, bodies are made amenable to the prevailing exigencies of power.
Cicatrizations and scarifications mark the body as a public, collective, social category, in modes of inclusion or membership; they form maps of social needs, requirements, and excesses. The body and its privileged zones of sensation, reception, and projection are coded by objects, categories, affiliations, lineages, which engender and make real the subject's social, sexual, familial, marital, or economic position or identity within a social hierarchy. Unlike messages to be deciphered, they are more like a map correlating social positions with corporeal intensities
The Body: Private or Public?
incisions and various body markings create an erotogenic surface; they create not a map of the body but the body precisely as a map. They constitute some regions on that surface as more intensified, more significant , than others. In this sense they unevenly distribute libidinal value and forms of social codification across the body
Liz Grosz: Volatile Bodies
Secondary schools: We think they were silent about sex. But look at the architectural layout. Sex is taken permanently into account. There is a massive system of arrangement and discourse.

A great festival in May 1776 saw school children publicly examined about their knowledge of sex. The assembled audience laughed and were reprimanded. In other words, the children had been disciplined vis-à-vis sex discourse.

“all this together enables us to link an intensification of the interventions of power to a multiplication of discourse.”

Discourses which sprung up about sex: Medicine, Psychiatry, Criminal Justice.
Knowledge used to forewarn. Reports. Diagnoses. Sex transformed into something to be aware of, as a constant danger, and something therefore to be talked about more.
The Materiality of Discourse

This can be connected to the similar emergence of the notion – the problem – of ‘population’. Concern with population led to transformations of conduct, ‘anchorage points’ for different kinds of management of people
Discourse and Power
New codes of discreteness and morality in personal relations were imposed from C.17th.
 But there was also an ‘Institutional incitement to speak about it [sex]’.
Sex was “tracked down as it were, by a discourse that aimed to allow it no obscurity, no respite”. 
Obligation to talk about everything to do with sex.
The Discourse of Sex
Were the Victorians “repressed” about sex? Is what they did primarily “censorship”?

Key Point: Power is not simply negative. Foucault challenges “the repressive hypothesis”
The History of Sexuality vol.1 (1978)
After Althusser,
Michel Foucault
“Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
Michel Foucault
Bodies and Power
There were moral and conversational delicacies, of course but: ‘The forbidding of certain words, the decency of expressions, all the censorings of vocabulary, might well have been only secondary devices compared to the great subjugation: ways of rendering it morally acceptable and technically useful.’

“A censorship of sex? There was installed rather an apparatus for producing an ever greater quantity of discourse about sex, capable of functioning and taking effect in its very economy.”
“Tell everything”
Is Popular Culture Separate from our Bodies?
Popular Culture
Cardiff University
Paul Bowman
key name today:
Are our bodies inside or outside of culture? On the one hand, they are what seems most natural, but on the other hand, they are constantly worked upon and worked over by cultural processes – rules, habits, law, diet, education, training, discipline, design, attire, desire, fantasy, values, aspirations, procedures, judgements, and so on. This week we examine some of the ways that culture works on the body, by looking at the work of Michel Foucault and Foucault-inspired scholarship. We connect such historical work with ongoing processes in popular culture and our everyday lives.
disciplined bodies
docile bodies
NB: the book is not about this
Foucault sees the Catholic confessional as a precursor of disciplinary society
It's all about the gaze (again)
does a panoptical society intensify forms and forces of "normativity"?
Said used Foucault's ideas of "discourse" to write about "Orientalism"
The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation; an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see induce effects of power, and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible. (Foucault 1977/1995, pp. 170-171)
The recorded version of this lecture is here:

Theme 1
Before Foucault
Louis Althusser
Ideological State Apparatuses
Mechanical System
Complex System
knowledge has a history
discourses have histories
for example
the materiality of discourse
physical spaces arranged to manage people
disciplined bodies
docile bodies
discourses of knowledge
All of us, men as much as women, are caught up in modes of self-production and self-observation; these modes may entwine us in various networks of power, but never do they render us merely passive and compliant.
Full transcript