Thursday, 17 March 2011

Ch1: Coordinating the Body and the Social

The way I've set up the concepts in this work is that we are studying corporalities: the connections between bodies, objects and words and that this is a dynamic imagination. We're going to check my ideas about other ways of talking about bodies ("disabled" or not) that were reference points or inspirations for my own.

In this and the next post I'm going to talk about ways of relating the body and the social. I compare two different approaches, that I see as kinda opposites: British anthropologist Mary Douglas' work on the body and Michael Oliver's idea of the "social model" of disability.

In "Two Bodies" Douglas writes about the coordination between physical and social experiences of the body. She says that there is a dense and continuous communication between the two, and because of this, they are likely to be coordinated with each other. It would, for her, only be through a deliberate and conscious effort that they were not.

This is why there are representations of Good People being Good Looking, and Villains being Ugly & Deformed. There's a coordination between their bodies and their characters. And the people I met definitely experience this.

Mateus, using his motorized wheelchair, sometimes asks for "help" from strangers. Sometimes people think that he's asking for financial help, making the assumption that because he's in a wheelchair he's begging for money. And it's not just strangers that are the problem. To enter into his current job, he had to sue his employers, because they had rejected him on the basis that he would never be able to do the tasks necessary (citing lab-work, rather than the computer-based work he actually does).

Our next stop is the "social model of disability", which tackles precisely situations like these and will let us see a bit better how coordinations are less something to be taken for granted and more something that is actively being negotiated.


Douglas' essay on "Two Bodies" is in Natural Symbols - Explorations in Cosmology (1970).

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