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The Body in Society: An Introduction, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5441-6
224 pages
January 2013, Polity
The Body in Society: An Introduction, 2nd Edition (074565441X) cover image

In everyday life we are not, for the most part, actively conscious of our bodies or the bodies of others – we simply take them for granted. This new edition of a lively introduction to the sociology of the body examines what certain aspects of our bodies, such as the size, shape, smell and demeanour, reveal about the social organization of everyday life and how the body is crucial to the way we engage with the world and the people around us.

The human body is endowed with varied forms of social significance which sociology has addressed by asking questions such as: To what degree do individuals have control over their own bodies? What interest does the state have in regulating the human body? How significant is the body to the development and performance of the self in everyday life? What images of the body influence people’s expectations of themselves and others? Written in a clear and comprehensible way, The Body in Society introduces students to the key conceptual frameworks that help us to understand the social significance of the human body. This second edition has been thoroughly updated to take into account recent theories and debates and also includes enhanced pedagogical features. Using familiar examples from everyday life, such as diet and exercise regimes, personal hygiene, dress, displays of emotion, and control over bodily functions, coupled with examples from popular culture, the text has strong contemporary relevance and will strike a chord with all who read it.

This book will be essential reading for students taking courses on the body in sociology, anthropology, gender studies and cultural studies.

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Acknowledgements vi

Introduction 1

1 The Body in Everyday Life 16

2 The Body, Gender and Sex 50

3 The Civilized Body 85

4 The Body in Consumer Culture 115

5 Regulating the Body 150

6 Vulnerable Bodies 179

Glossary 211

References 220

Index 248

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Alexandra Howson is an independent researcher/writer, and former lecturer in sociology at the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

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- Literature and references updated throughout.
- Has been made much more student friendly, with ‘Stop and Pause’ questions, and case study boxes throughout the text.
- Updated and improved further reading sections.
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  • New edition of an accessible introduction to the sociology of the body, including cultural, social and theoretical approaches to the body.
  • Introduces students to the key theoretical perspectives and conceptual frameworks which help us to understand the social significance of the human body.
  • Written in an approachable style, but also providing stimulating and thought-provoking material for upper-level students.
  • Filled with intriguing examples, such as diet regimes, personal hygiene, dress, and body modification, to help readers engage with this fascinating discipline.
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‘Howson set out to write about everyday embodied experiences rather than the interests of professional sociologists. Perhaps that’s why The Body in Society is such a valuable resource for exactly those sociologists and their students. This revised version is a highly engaging, accessible and, above all, socially embedded introduction to this important area.’
Julie Brownlie, University of Stirling

‘The sociology of the body is now an established and important field of research and scholarship. Howson offers a timely, up-to-date and accessible introduction to a wide range of key issues in the field. The Body in Society will be an essential text for students exploring the body's role in social relations.’
Victoria Pitts-Taylor, City University of New York

‘Sociological interest in the body has burgeoned since the 1980s, but few writers have managed to provide such a sophisticated interweaving of theoretical approaches with applied understanding. Eloquently charting “everyday” practices diversified by gender, age, disability, ethnicity and sexuality, situated within theoretical frameworks encompassing phenomenology and dualism, regulation and cultural capital, Howson enables us to appreciate both the “real” and the politically inscribed aspects of embodiment as influenced by social processes and contexts.’
Gillian Bendelow, University of Sussex

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