Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2004. 33:251–69 doi: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.

143749 Copyright c 2004 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved First published online as a Review in Advance on May 14, 2004

Embodiment, and Selves
Steven Van Wolputte
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2004.33:251-269. Downloaded from by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. For personal use only.

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; email:

Key Words subjectivity, intersubjectivity, corporeality, body symbolism, vulnerability ■ Abstract During the past twenty years the human body evolved from a rather marginal social fact into a notion of central concern to current social and cultural anthropology. But recent studies question the idea of the body as a given physical entity. They focus on the experience or threat of finiteness, limitation, and vulnerability and also raise doubts regarding the individuality of the self: Instead they emphasize its fragmentary character and focus on the embodied uncertainties (such as hybridity or irony) of human existence. In three main sections (respectively, on the social body, embodiment, and subjectivity) this review eclectically explores an anthropological debate that also betrays a more generalized and rising concern in Western society with bodiliness and bodily appearance. From the discussion, the body emerges as a changing relationship that, at the same time, unfolds as an ethical horizon—and challenge—for the (un)making of self, identity, and belonging.

We all have and we all are a body. This allusion to Merleau-Ponty’s (1970) work is probably one of the (if not the) most recurrent expressions—or perhaps clich´ s—in e the literature reviewed here. But even this certainty—that for many signified the last objective stronghold against deconstructionism—is not so certain anymore. Under the influence of, among others, disability studies and of feminist and postcolonial scholarship, researchers have questioned the unity, neutrality, transparency, universality, and objectivity of the human organism (Grosz 1995b, Harraway 1991, Ingstad & Whyte 1995); the supposed continuity, transcendence, and individuality (indivisibility) of the self (see Battaglia 1995b, De Vos et al. 1985, Strathern 1988); and the self-evidence of bodiliness and embodiment (Csordas 1994a, Geurts 2002, Weiss 1999, Shildrick 2002). This review focuses mainly on the literature of the past two decades. But it does not pretend or intend to be an overview of bodies and selves in social and cultural anthropology (see Csordas 1999; Farnell 1999, p. 346vv; Frank 1990;




Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2004.33:251-269. Downloaded from by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. For personal use only.

Johnson 1985; Lock 1993; Morris 1994; Scheper-Hughes & Lock 1987; Synott 1993, pp. 7–37). Instead it sketches my own itinerary from the study of body symbolism to the uncertainties of embodiment as a crucial but precarious project of subjectivation: the incarnate subjectivity I refer to as the body-self. Thus the review’s scope is rather eclectic. To a varying degree it has been influenced by postcolonial criticism (see Fanon 1986; Mbembe 1992, 2002), Africanist anthropology (see Comaroff & Comaroff 1991, 1997; Devisch 1993; De Boeck 1996; Ranger 1993; Turner 1974; Werbner 1998), psychoanalysis (see Lichtenberg-Ettinger 1995, Grosz 1995b, Weiss 1999), feminism (Counihan 1999, Flax 1990, Haraway 1991), and (French) phenomenology and praxeology (Bourdieu 1977, 1980; Merleau-Ponty 1970; see also Jackson 1996; Csordas 1994a,b). I hope, then, to offer some sort of “social phenomenology”—to many a contradiction in terms—of which the basic premise is the idea that intersubjectivity is grounded in bodiliness or corporeality. This bodiliness, however, is that of the scarred and vulnerable body. It concerns, in the first instance, an intercorporeality (see Foster 1996). To an important extent this perspective is also molded by my fieldwork in northwest Namibia, in an arid border region characterized by the memory of South African occupation and apartheid (1918–1990), civil war (1966–1988), and international conflict (1975–2002). Most people in this region practice a herding economy, and most refer to themselves as Himba and/or Herero. Among these herders, notions of selfhood do not refer to a psychological or biological core (ego-genes): As “bodiliness” also implies the bodies of the animals in one’s herd, or the ancestors, selfhood in the first instance concerns a decentered (or ex-centric) subjectivity; it implies a body-self that originates in “outer” fields of meaning and extends in space and place, in material culture, in animals, and in the bodies of others (Van Wolputte 2004).

To an important extent, the history of the body (both as an object of study and as an analytical metaphor) in anthropology is a history of notions of self, person, and subject. This also means that the different bodies scholars care to distinguish and analyze reflect their concern with more encompassing social and political, or epistemological and methodological issues.

The Social Body
In social and cultural anthropology, the body was never completely absent, even if only for the fact that, implicitly, the bodiliness of the Other served as a principal marker of his or her Otherness (see De Kock 1996, McClintock 1996, Thomas 1994). But only in a few instances it gained explicit attention. Elias (1978a,b), for example, traced back the origin of the comportment and sentiment of Western

For some authors. society and culture” (Scheper-Hughes & Lock 1987. “just as we think our society with our bodies so. In the villages and former townships of northwestern Namibia. but also between groups of people. and women and children the soft parts of the animal’s body. p. Likewise. the way the herd is composed reflects dominant ideology regarding authority. 7). Hugh-Jones (1979). amply demonstrated the bodily (or as he called it. p. studied the human body as a privileged medium of expression and nonverbal communication (Blacking 1977).” its social values. 140). this complex of bodily techniques he subsumed under the notion of habitus. “orectic”) dimension of dominant symbols in Ndembu social life. is a body of symbolic representation. 73–86. and norms. 51). between the individual’s presocial. she claims. The social body. individual drives and energies and its “internalized others.33:251-269. they mirror the physical into the social and cause the physical to be experienced in social terms. 379) formulated the idea that people are identified and distinguished by the way they “use” their bodies. too. 2004. documents in detail how spatial ordering “fits” the symbolic and social order. These two bodies constitute different realms of experience. p. For personal use only. However. 55). civilization to its early medieval beginnings. Each body. pp. this mediatrix was the human body. SELVES 253 by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. gender. EMBODIMENT. Moore (1996) . for example. demonstrates how among the Amazonian Kayapo the skin marks the boundary not only of the individual (as a biological and psychological entity) but also of the social self. p. Hence a social skin fashions the boundary not only between individual and other social actors. Anthropol. the animal body reflects the way people think about the human body and hence about society. So men will eat the hard parts of a sacrifice. in the words of O’Neill (1985). for instance. The 1975 Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) conference on the anthropology of the body.annualreviews. p. power. a representational reality that “constrains the way the physical body is perceived” (Douglas 1978. it refers “to the representational use of the body as a natural symbol with which to think about nature. Mauss (1950. is a physical entity but also is a representation. Terence Turner (1980. Or. Body and Space But Douglas’ distinction. Other writers prefer space as the third term to mediate (or interarticulate) social structure and individual agency. Synott 1993). for instance. 70). it is a medium of expression but one that is controlled and restricted by the social system. Victor Turner (1974. hence. we think our bodies with society” (p. Downloaded from arjournals. 55. Rev. 1975. He linked their history to the origin of the state in the centrifugal forces radiating from the feudal system in Europe. arguably.BODIES. biology and sociology. between social classes (also see Ahmed & Stacey 2001. the conference responded to the need of a growing number of scholars to find a third term to mediate the conceptual gap between individual and aggregate. in turn. And Douglas (1978) distinguished between the natural and the social body. nature and culture. for example. and seniority—regarding human relationships (see Van Wolputte 2002). only reaffirmed the dualism of body and mind and the supremacy of the latter over the former.

The social body. and resistance. as well. and not (objective) structures. 2–5). From this medicalanthropological perspective Scheper-Hughes & Lock (1987) launched their appeal to problematize the body in anthropology. 2004. see Low & Lawrence-Z´ niga 2003. space offers a way out of the subjectivism often associated with the study of the body.33:251-269. pp.annualreviews. and by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. These three bodies also constitute three levels of experience and analysis. but a u˜ relatum. kinship. are part of the muted. For this purpose they distinguished three bodies. pp. interprets Marakwet spatial practice as the interface between ideology and history. For personal use only. 15–23).254 VAN WOLPUTTE Annu. subjection. though. text and context. and agency. Downloaded from arjournals. Bodily (or triadic) models. society. as much shaped by ruling ideology as it is by the practicalities (the material conditions) of everyday life. and individual. dyadic and triadic models of thought. In these analyses of space the body is never far away. and people continuously switch between body and space. are emotions. gender. though related. This is the body politic: the human body as tool or weapon of domestication and disciplination and of identification. and with memory and history. and poetry. and mode of production (see Featherstone et al. what according to the authors interarticulates nature. A third dimension states that power and control are embodied as well. social. The individual (note this shift from the “natural”) body is the domain of phenomenological analysis as it studies the “lived” or embodied experiences people have of their bodies. Rev. and some authors explicitly interpret space and time as closely related aspects of bodiliness that underpin the production of meaning (Casey 1996. and historical dimensions of healing and health appeared. These models express (subjective) experience. Instead. ideology and hegemony. She no longer considers space a reflection of social discourse. for example. relates to the ways the body (including its products: blood. contrasts “body” and “space” as two different. For some scholars. overt daytime realm and vehiculate a (dominant) symbolic order. she views it as a social praxis riddled with contradiction and conflict. Medical Anthropology and the Body Politic By the mid-1980s a new subdiscipline that focused on the cultural. or inarticulate domain of ritual. Jacobson-Widding (1991. in contrast. milk. Lovell 1998. healing. etc. What mediates between them. Anthropol. approaches to “meaning. 1991). As proto-symbols or . myth. as a tool at hand to think and represent social relationships such as gender. in contrast. compliance but also subversion both toward local power-brokers and toward the postcolony (Lefebvre 1991). a—bodily—relationship that for instance in Himbaland (“the land where Himba cattle graze”) is associated with lineage membership.” Spatial models of the world operate according to a binary logic. These two logics coexist.) operates as a natural symbol. Devisch 1993. They belong to the public. Space is not a datum. covert. political. a symbolic (hence logical understanding) of the world. phenomena. or between actors’ strategies and the “objective” social and economic conditions. and three anthropological approaches.

Butchart 1998. Just as the evangelization of the southern African interior puts central focus on the body. Annu. and for obvious reasons. scholars focused on the role and status of the body in local understandings and in so-called “traditional” healing (see Corin 1979. Stalleybrass & Whyte 1986.b). Alternatively. for example. they achieve healing through manipulating symbols so as to alter the state of the physical and social body. Taylor 1992). or black (see Comaroff & Comaroff by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. several authors questioned the social and cultural underpinnings of biomedicine and scrutinized the way the bodies of Self and Other were represented by Western ideology and technology (see. among others. Anthropol. This kind of praxical and not discursive resistance may not directly confront the forces of domination: It defies the penetration of the hegemonic system into the structures of the natural world. Antibodies In a provocative essay Terence Turner (1994) warns against those poststructuralist approaches that. Koss-Chioino 1992) or on the way the body bridges or provokes the contradictions of the double bind (see Jacobson-Widding & Westerlund 1989. resistance against indirect rule in northwestern Namibia targeted in the first instance the state veterinarians and apartheid livestock policy. Rev. Hence they can bridge the mind/body divide and bring the three bodies together (also see Lyon & Barbalet 1994). Helman 1990). Jean Comaroff (1985a. these churches address the experiential conflict of their members. following Bourdieu. Zionist healing also implies a powerful social and political critique. studies how history and relations of power are mediated through social practice. Lyons 1992. strongly oppose the bodily realm to the discursive exercise of power. An outcome of a process of simultaneous reproduction and transformation. and between the domestication of bodies whether female. Turner 1992. It embodies a form of resistance that on the surface. Influenced by Foucault. SELVES 255 proto-rituals emotions affect experience most immediately. Through their animals rather than through armed rebellion people confined state power to certain. Studies such as these provide an unsettling critique of the Western civilizing mission. so do the Zionist churches of the South African Tshidi. Munn (1986) concentrates on the bodily transformations effected by the circulation of Kula shells in Papua New Guinea.BODIES. studied the body as a medium and operator of social processes and political change. they analyzed how the body functions as the focus for disciplination strategies devised by the structures of dominance and bio-power of the West (for instance. Vaughan 1991).33:251-269. presents itself as apolitical. They reveal. however. McClintock 1996). of everyday life. the striking parallels between the colonization of consciousness both in the colony and at home. Likewise. well-defined areas of life. laboring. Others. Within this subdiscipline. 2004. Gilman 1988. EMBODIMENT. notably through bodily symbolism. not unlike Foucault himself. In a context of apartheid and oppression.annualreviews. Downloaded from arjournals. in turn. Thus in equating bodiliness with the subjective . For personal use only.

p. and can be considered the “material infrastructure” of the production of selves. EMBODIMENT AND PRAXIS Bourdieu (1977. of which it is the product and object (see Foucault 1986). Martin 1992). It is subjective but not individual (because it is shared by members of the same social group or class). meaningful and material. Some writers say these terms move beyond the symbolic order. and Kirmayer (1992. 368). p. p. ironically. Bourdieu maintained that his approach moves from social facts to the process of the social facts’ (re)production.33:251-269. 1980) tried to answer similar questions when he argued that social action is governed by a hazy logic of approximation. p. 43).org by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. experience of pleasure and pain they reduce it to individual sexuality and desire in order to. and identities. p. the socially informed body. p. Devisch (1993. and it results in an immediate adhesion (doxa) to the world understood as “an endless circle of mutually reflecting metaphors” (Bourdieu 1977. p. 7. 91). in the first instance. a defensive organism that protects rather than questions mainstream Western philosophy and political thought by emphasizing the private and individualistic dimensions of bodiliness at the expense of its plural and relational aspects. As Kirmayer . Lyon & Barthelet 1994. subsequently. according to Turner. 2). It is both subjective and objective.annualreviews. Body and Metaphor Metaphor and metonymy also were forwarded as bodily alternatives to the “cognitive crystallography” of mainstream (post)structuralist approaches (Kirmayer 1992. This logic is operated by the habitus. 115). Similar critiques (namely. Mauss 1950. and not as agent of social praxis. p. p. 50). This unquestioned but not unquestionable acceptance of the world is a state of the body (Bourdieu 1980. and self-contained as the Foucaultian concept of Power. Csordas (1994b. p. p. for example. that most scholars regarded the body solely as an outcome. see Fernandez 1986. But his critics claim that he takes embodiment for granted and mistakes it for bodiliness (see. Anthropol. Jackson 1983). Comaroff 1985a. Lyon & Barbalet (1994. 331. from organism to embodiment. 6). The body as understood by Turner (1994. that bodiliness was reduced to physical properties. a conceptual body. belonging. This body. 82. a relationship. 28) is. Le Breton 1990. Johnson 1987.256 VAN WOLPUTTE Annu. and that the saliency of the body in contemporary debate reflected the centrality of a consumerist and medicalist representation of the body in social theory) were formulated by Benoist & Cathebras (1993). abstract. Downloaded from arjournals. This Foucaultian body concerns. beyond cognition and discourse. p. or society embodied (Bourdieu 1977. that all too often the body was considered an empty box or as a mere tool for the mind. Frank (1990). 331). ahistorical. Turner (1994. history turned into nature. a disembodied subject. personal and social. Jackson (1996. neglect it (Brown 1988. 54). 2004. appears as distant. 47) therefore coins it an antibody. p. p. Rev. For personal use only. that the turn toward the body remained embedded in a representationalist paradigm.

Western pharmaceuticals convey a certain view of world and man. they (re)present a certain power and technology and metaphorize both the illness and a concrete way of addressing it. and this bodiliness gives them a certain thickness and contiguity. or provoke instead of prescribe. Rev. p. 353. metaphors are “the imaginative elaboration around bodily functions” (pp. in the pastures and water holes claimed by the lineage and given by the ancestors’ journey. In his study of healing among North American Charismatic Christians. p. in the herd. writers on this subject understand trauma and the violation of bodily boundaries as major sources of “unmaking” the self (see Scarry 1985. pp. Meanings are not only representational. (1992. their meaning is not bound by symbolic conventions (Devisch 1993. 337) shows. 60. This not only accounts for their popularity but also in part explains why they work (Van der Geest & Whyte 1991. Ancestors are intrinsically part of daily life and society. At the same time. 468) and expand simultaneously in all directions. they are or may be presentational also—embodied. Csordas (1990. Downloaded from arjournals. EMBODIMENT. 276–77).annualreviews. metaphors link one domain of experience to another. or in the cooked butter with which women and men cover their bodies. hairstyle. SELVES 257 Annu. Nevertheless they produce effect. Meaning is or can be bodily felt all over the world: For instance. an efficacy that one can attribute to the fact that metaphors address both bodily and social experience (Kirmayer 1993. Advancing this point. 2004. p. For personal use only. in particular by the animals carrying their names. they are rooted in bodily (sensuous) experience. Paraphrasing Winnicot (1989). in the interdiction to mention one’s fathers or husband by name. 184). see Helman 1990). and finery. ancestors are embodied—remembered—by the particular diet of each patriclan. in garments. pp. And likewise. p. pp. Among the Himba. Favazza 1987). 205). On the by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. especially in the sense of touch that in more psychoanalytic approaches is put forward as the source of self (Anzieu 1985. However. 333. Bodies and Embodiment Emphasis on the body (and. metaphors are extrarational and are tools not only to think. that by most participants is experienced as inadequate to communicate with the divine.33:251-269. 235–36). for instance. for instance. Anthropol. embodiment) as the source of meaning is one of the things Merleau-Ponty and Bourdieu have in common (see Marcoulatos 2001). elicit instead of define. 5) argues that the body should not be considered as an object but as the subject—the existential ground—of culture and that the latter should be studied by focusing on embodiment. Csordas (1994a) discusses glossolalia (speaking in tongues) as a ritual language that goes beyond or leaves behind the semantics of common language. but especially to work with experience. see Brazelton 1990). arguably. they create “an abundance of possible meanings” (De Boeck 1994. They belong to the realm of praxis (and not of cognition) and suggest instead of conceive. Speaking in tongues evokes (embodied) images that are further elaborated in vernacular . but this linking could both generate and cloud understanding—they do not have a mission (see Fernandez 1986.

the hegemonical and the counterhegemonical (see also Comaroff 1985b. For personal use only. Anthropol. However. Peek 1991). for example. as knowledge-in-action that is the basis of social practice and world-making (De Boeck 1994. 212) documents how witchcraft practices embody a deeply rooted distrust toward the postcolony and its representatives. Werbner 1996). is a gift from God (Csordas 1990.33:251-269. Comaroff & Comaroff (1991. describes how spirit mediums in Zimbabwe effected political change and revolution by mobilizing the spirits of the royal ancestors—the bringers of rain and the original and legitimate owners of the land—for the independence struggle. witchcraft discourse also is a tool to safeguard and fence off personal profits and political influence by the postcolonial elite. as such they could (and can) forge the Herero into a political force during and after apartheid (Hendricksson 1996). Likewise. for example. thoughts or emotions—embodied distress—experienced as “out of control. Lan (1985). way (Csordas 1990. and behavior. As such it collapses the difference between subjective and objective. and transformation revolve around notions and experiences of space. these highly contradictory and paradoxical processes of change. pp. 171–76). also manifests itself as a “lived” social and political commentary: Geschiere (1997. Thus.” as a “lived” manifestation of “evil” (Csordas 1994a. Boddy (1989). is situated on the level of lived experience and not on that of by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. Embodiment. Africanist anthropology understands witchcraft or divination as an embodied epistemology. In the experience and performance Annu. between the demon as a cultural form or object. Rev. Speaking in tongues creates belonging: As a verbal gesture it opens up the world of the sacred that. Mbembe (1992) forwards the body and embodiment as the playground of both oppression and resistance: Both the postcolonial state and its subjects indulge in a grotesque and obscene bodiliness that dissolves the boundaries between rulers and ruled. pp. rupture. indeed. like ritual language. self. Witchcraft is ambiguous because power itself is experienced as such. and uniforms embody (and not merely represent) belonging. they make some body part of a larger social and moral community. The occult. pp. Stallybrass & White 1986. It precedes objectivation and representation and is intrinsically part of our beingin-the-world. Downloaded from arjournals. 199. 138–48). In a similar vein. 276). for instance. cognition and emotion. 1997) illustrate how these same ready-made dichotomies are challenged by microhistories and local experiences. Scarfs. 25–26). pp. taking a place in an elaborate demonology that in itself is read as a moral statement. . but not precultural. says Csordas. p. body. p.258 VAN WOLPUTTE speech—discursive thought—and participants in charismatic faith healing. typically and without effort switch back and forth between the two. studies female possession in the Zar cult in North Sudan as a form of embodied resistance or counterhegemonic practice. or mind and body (Csordas 1994a. and identity (see Fardon 1995. the garments and finery of members of the Herero “flags” (or social groupings) in Namibia and Botswana prove to be important markers and makers of individual and group identity. for example. embodiment is about “understanding” or “making sense” in a prereflexive or even presymbolic. 2004. the powerful and powerless. Csordas also distinguishes. time. 10). flags. Ultimately.

15. and transformed through obstetric practices and the female body (see also Whittaker 2001). Lichtenberg-Ettinger (1995. And Counihan (1999) illustrates that in Sardinia and the United States the relation between gender and the production and consumption of food exemplifies cultural questions of power and control.” to experience and subjectivation. 82. nonfixity and indirection. complementary way of entering the symbolic or imaginary realm. embodiment is not solely the source of self and subjectivity. Weiss (1999). she places the matrixial fantasy (Freud’s Mutterleibsphantasie) that refers neither to absence nor to separation but to “relational difference in coemergence. or religion (see also Comaroff 1985b). sign to signification. translated. Hunt (1999). the eating body may also manifest self-empowerment. Anthropol. pp. 28). not history. Grosz (1995b. enables the self to engage in a wide variety of contexts and relationships (Weiss 1999. EMBODIMENT. while the trance unlocks the dominant categories of gender. Downloaded from arjournals. global) discourse is promoted as a symbol of self-control and power. one can regard this matrix as complementary to the habitus: It is memory. see above). proposes the matrix (or womb) as an alternative. or meaning to sense marks the possibility of giving ambiguity and indeterminacy. and paradoxically. 2004. 32–36) notes that embodiment is made possible through the corporeality of the Other. 166–167). From this perspective. which she in the first instance conceives as an intercorporeality (see also Ahmed & Stacey 2001). Embodiment and Intersubjectivity These studies have in common the idea that the body unlocks a moral universe that often escapes social (symbolic) discourse. Female identities are embodied in food practices. pp. how it originates in sources outside the self. whereas thinness in dominant Western (and. In the first by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. This fundamental exchange between bodies is vested in the inherent multiplicity and indeterminacy of the body we have and are. Against the fantasy of castration.33:251-269. p. this possibility of moving from one body (or body-image) to another may cause a more-or-less coherent sense of self to develop: This very flexibility and fluidity. SELVES 259 Annu. irony and paradox. but on the way colonial power was mediated. ethnicity. 83. in turn. increasingly. This shift in social and cultural anthropology from symbol to metaphor. status. women are brought into touch with their different selves and their nonselves. for instance. In a similar vein. pp. explicitly forwards embodiment as a precondition for intersubjectivity. she focuses not on colonial discourse and on docile bodies.BODIES. Moreover. or contradiction and ambivalence (elements that do not fit the orthodox symbolic order) a place in anthropological theory and praxis. For personal use only. however. Rev. In psychoanalysis as well feminist critics expose the centrality of the phallus and the fear of castration of the dominant patriarchic paradigm (see McClintock 1996).annualreviews. In a sense. offers a microhistory of the medicalization of childbirth in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the way it effected the bodies of African women. for instance. It also leads away from the dominant groups . turned into nature (Bourdieu 1977. of trance. this indeterminacy or metaphoric character of embodiment (see above).

To the extent that each theory of meaning also implies a theory or critique of power (see Parkin 1982. a way of questioning hegemony and fighting subordination (see Scott 1985). SELVES AND SUBJECTIVITY Irony. of common people. power and defiance. Moreover. The question remains whether irony makes a material difference. to an increasing extent. pp. Thus the irony appears: By mocking and subverting the Western stereotype of Otherness it is being confirmed and strengthened. and uncertainties but to trace and expose them (Whyte 2002. bounded-off communities to more overarching or encompassing processes of globalization and marginalization. 7–9. 2004. in space and time. as Fernandez & Huber (2001. says Richard Werbner (1998). paradoxes. Downloaded from arjournals. In popular imagination. Most of them know that they are rewarded for behaving that way. in crisis as daily life loses its taken-for-grantedness and the traces—the scars—left on the body and in the landscape continue to betray an often-untold history of violence and shattered identification (Devisch 1996). it only perpetuates the existing (political. ironically. etc. As memory practices—embodied memory—have become contested. 18) remind us. This subjunctivity is what I. or violence. p. i. contradictory and uncertain. 222) lead. though. p. In this context. That said. but also. for example. the inhabitants of northwestern Namibia are described as natural-born conservatives. Rev. xlvi. the elders and ritual specialists in control of social discourse) in society. creolization. parody. 4. Indeed.260 VAN WOLPUTTE (in particular. pp. Scheper-Hughes 1992. in animals or in things (see Warnier 2004). this “silent” experience of the world is.e. This body. Das & Kleinman 2000. “always-already. extends far beyond the human organism. “traditionally. For personal use only. consider the material object of contemporary semantic anthropology: not to solve these contradictions.. they involve “individual” experience. counterhegemony. so too the moral horizon along which self and subjectivity unfold has become insecure (see Battaglia 1995b. Stoller 1994).org by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. Revolving around embodiment.annualreviews. economic. the quotidian is being bracketed by dissimulation: Daily upheaval and alienation are mastered by dissimulating them. ours is an age of irony (see also Strathern 1995). This crisis of the quotidian reveals also a crisis of memory. Anthropol. commodification. following Flax’s (1990. The shift brings with it also a renewed emphasis on the quotidian. But in postcolonial Africa. authority and subversion. Annu. it is found to be polycentric and ambiguous. or whether. 175). and narrative—the list is incomplete— can be considered processes (and technologies) of self. it implies the abandonment of an almost exclusive focus on localized. irony is a tool of the moral imagination. on the daily experience (the doxa). identity building. Arens & Karp 1989) the notion of power also has become dispersed or decentered.” in the past by the apartheid government and nowadays by the tourist industry in its quest for authenticity.” imply . memory.33:251-269.) discrepancies. moral imagination. the human body emerges as the meeting ground of both hegemony and counterhegemonic practices. p. In this idea.

“What is self?” by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. For personal use only. SELVES 261 intersubjectivity. for example. they try to document how people create or maintain a sense of self and belonging and how this “becoming” is permeated with questions of hegemony and power (see Nast 1998. Anthropol. 163). the self as an embodied process of self-making. selves—each with their own voices. memories. 136–42. of becoming (the body-self). or world and habitus (see above. Downloaded from arjournals. as Mead (1974) notes: “[W]e cannot be ourselves unless we are also members” (p. Scheper-Hughes & Lock 1987. Merleau-Ponty 1970. 53. implies not only the ancestors and one’s descendants. 2004. And the more phenomenological approach of Csordas (1994a. These things forward an intercorporeality that. other investigators understand it as primarily the capacity for self-reflexivity and self-consciousness (De Vos et al. or with different animals in the herd. He portrays the self as indeterminate and inherently metaphorical. but also the animals at the center of the homestead and of daily life. notes that the non-Western self is often o conceptualized as the opposite of the bounded. but also practical knowledge process [in the sense of “knowledge-at-hand” (Sch¨ tz 1962)]. 96).annualreviews. etc. It is this incarnate subjectivity I refer to as the body-self (Langer 1989.BODIES. Rev. They are exemplified by the garments and finery one wears. pp. p. bracelets. p. the image of an unchanging and “universal” self is part of Western dominant ideology that associates individuality with modernization and a sociocentric personality with either traditionalism or nostalgia. S¨ kefeld (1999. Devisch 1993. Whereas psychological approaches place heavy emphasis on the antagonism between the “individual” and “collective” representations of self and the effects they have on the way selfhood is represented and experienced (see Sedikides & Brewer 2001). represented (objectified) as a person with one or many identities. with homestead and cattle post. or as a tendency to organize and offer structure and continuity to experience (Morris 1994). Winnicot 1989). as a reflexive project (Giddens 1991). on the one hand. 1985). . as aprons. and that the self—the generalized Other—is multiple or composite (Mead 1974. autonomous. 7) reminds us. He pointed out that a self is a social structure and process that arises in and from social experience. But one’s dress also inscribes women and men in the history of the lineage. 9) understands the self as an indeterminate process to engage or become oriented in the world. and history—are associated with different places and spaces (for example. cultural milieu. 15). consequently. at least in northern Namibia. In northern Namibia. it is a whole of processes in which aspects of the world are thematized into different Gestalts and.33:251-269. it appears through the interaction (embodiment) between bodily experience. Csordas 1994a. next. and independent Western self and. see Turner 1995). 418). As Battaglia (1995a. periods of time (such as the rainy and dry seasons). pp. reflexive. village and town). It is therefore important to distinguish between. that it involves the body. are inherited and circulated through the lineage. 3. p. Or. u This means that they do not focus on the question. Annu. These authors draw attention to the self as an embodied and contextual. that anthropology denies the possibility of self in the Other. p. see Anzieu 1985. too. EMBODIMENT.

an increasing fragmentation of self under the influence of the breakdown of the grand metanarratives. other than people. Littlewood (1997) suggests that postmodernity and globalization have instigated an epidemic of multiple personality disorder in North America. Downloaded from arjournals. pp. testifies to this “schizophrenic” self characterized by information overload and the absence of an overarching narrative.33:251-269. Larsen (1998) makes a similar point by documenting how women and men in Zanzibar become identified (or localized) through their association with a spirit that. this female body becomes the most powerful locus of agency: By surrendering her self and body the “victim” suddenly finds herself in the center of power and once again in control of her life. 2004.” the pathology of postmodernism as informed and inspired by new information technologies and cyberspace. This fragmentation (or dislocation. is not total: According to Strauss. Rev. p. In Europe and North America as well. 1985). 22). on the other hand. he says. as when the woman’s body is taken over by the spirit. studies such as these also question the unity and indivisibility (the atomic character) of the body-self. the ethnographic record documents many instances where dominant ideology does promote a multiple Self (see Cohen 1998. 15–16). in contrast. Anthropol. and master the Other in the form of serially accessed identities (or alters). 26) argues that the alienation and havoc brought about by late capitalism has resulted in a fragmented (and false) consciousness in the West. a further step toward enhanced self-awareness. Dominant ideology could. pp. In a similar vein.” Studying Iteso spirit possession in Kenya he concludes that when agency is denied. in turn. Fragmentation and Vulnerability Directly and indirectly. The question he raises is whether this pluralism of the self reflects a new “idiom of distress. Postmodern culture ( by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. often associated with (the memory of) early life experiences. has a distinctive identity and a specific association with a place. p. 12–13. 90) points to what he terms “the paradox of agency. and. a nonself (see De Vos et al. or. put forward narrative . with each voice referring to a set of metaphoric imagery and emotional valence. p. Scheper-Hughes & Lock 1987.). for instance. Karp (1990. whether it embodies a new discourse on and model of self and subselves. though. This fragmentation. perhaps) of the self is illustrated by Strauss (1997. ideas and experiences regarding the in/dividual and self are subject to profound change. Ochs & Capps (1996. In this regard. movies. According to him. etc. 369). For personal use only. Whereas in the West multiple selves traditionally have been associated with pathologies such as schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. p. incorporate.262 VAN WOLPUTTE Annu. She interviewed a number of Rhode Island (sub)urbanites in the wake of the closure of a major chemical plant and documents how people talk in different voices. Jameson (1991. the socially sanctioned self-image or representational Self. promote a “transcendent self” or even the absence of self. a new technology to represent.annualreviews. some integration is achieved through emotions. this end of a coherent self or centered subject also means the end of individual expression and feelings and emotions.

In the mountains of northern Namibia. p. participant observer. blends nature and civilization.annualreviews. this dividuality and fragmentation of the body-self may be partly and temporarily overcome during rituals and other emotionally charged events such as birth giving or death. The man/machine. student. They suggest that this fragmentation can take place along many axes. is neither logical nor complete: It is associative. experienced. p. however. to postmodernism. transience. limitation. as Moreiras (1999. This integration. SELVES 263 Annu. such as past and present. a fragmentary or conflictual body-self particular to late capitalism. CONCLUDING REMARKS Is. But is. Anthropol. These embodied uncertainties do indeed challenge the autonomy of the in/dividual insofar as they no longer appear as a lack or deficiency. EMBODIMENT.” We all are Creoles of sorts: hybrid. p. the political prize of this hybridity to resign to one’s subaltern position vis-` -vis Euro-American hegemony and subjectivation? a .33:251-269. divided. or postcolonial disenchantment? Or are we dealing with a new academic paradigm and social discourse of self in the West? Does recognizing the existential eccentricity—the decentered subjectivity—and fragmentary character of the body-self mean it was not there before? And. too. 2004. but instead as an existential characteristic of the human condition and as an ethical challenge (Shildrick 2002). as an important way to both evoke and partly integrate these fragmentary selves. And to an important extent this questioning of the self also implies the self of the ethnographer. Downloaded from arjournals. and conflicts that have one thing in common: They are real. 396) suggests. Kulich & Willson 1995). to the extent that Western hegemony is based in and legitimated by the idea of an inalienable physical or psychological core. male and female. Rev. stages the cyborg as a challenge to established power relations. for example. the anthropology of the body focuses no longer on the abstract or ideal(ized) by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. organism and technology. in a challenging essay Rambo Ronai (1992. wife. and a sense of belonging achieved. or public and private. metaphoric. often incoherent and inconsistent. 21. 122) points out the conflicts and fragmentation she experienced between her being a dancer. but on those moments during which the body and bodiliness are questioned and lose their self-evidence and on the experience or threat of finiteness. that is. thus the cyborg also is a parody to the themes and archetypes of modernist discourse. It can thus be argued that it is through fragmentation that the sometimes violent rupture between experience and discourse. and author of the narrative (an “emotional striptease”) that was meant to reassemble her self (also see Josephides 1997. This contemporary body-self is fragmentary. and parodic—a pastiche of our Selves. does not this mere recognition already jeopardize dominant modernist discourse and ideology (Weiss 1999. male and female. social tensions. For instance. precisely because it arises from contradictory and paradoxical experiences. and vulnerability. polyphonic. p. and objective and symbolic reality can be overcome. 168)? Haraway (1991).BODIES. as carnate hybridity. For personal use only. as Jameson holds. Therefore. and “matrixial.

Sci. pp. I Karp. 49). a commodity to be purchased. 1989. means that the West has lost its Self. masculine and feminine) have become insecure. J Stacey. W Arens. 2004. Rhetorics of SelfMaking. 1985. A. Men. social. in a context of globalization—a process of increasing compartmentalization—it asserts its hegemony stronger than ever before. pp. S Ahmed. On the other hand. In today’s context the body is no longer given. Washington: Smithsonian Inst. and remoteness in space has evolved into a remoteness in time (Grosz 1995a. 1–15 Battaglia D. On the one hand. or at least its recognition in the West.S.264 VAN WOLPUTTE Annu. I also thank Rene Devisch. but is the fear of change not something of all times and places? Distances have narrowed. ed. p. public and private. Of course. and Peter Crossman for their suggestions and critical comments on earlier drafts. For those who can afford it. or cosmetic surgery. Press Bourdieu P. Madison: Univ. Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women. it is a canvas on which major cultural. namely that the awareness of fragmentation and multiplicity brings with it a stronger emphasis on an ideology that denies it. Soc. 1989. Rev. pp. all mistakes and shortcomings are mine.annualreviews. and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan. traditional boundaries (between individual and society. the body is fully customizable and adaptable. See Battaglia 1995b. Le Moi-Peau. xi–ixxx. 1977. Introduction. This political discourse has every interest in symbolically representing the person as indivisible and “one. Med. pp. Problematizing the self: a thematic introduction. J Blacking. This constitutes a fundamental paradox. Press Battaglia D. The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at http://anthro. Karp I. 1977.33:251-269. Anthropol. Paris: Dunod Arens W. whether through tattoos. it is a (if not the) major focus and objective of these changes. 1993. Downloaded from arjournals. The body: from an immateriality to another. 1995a. and morally right (see Brodwin 2000). Cathebras by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. Press Benoist J. And although identity is considered conterminous with lifestyle. In Thinking Through the Skin.A. 36(7):857–66 Blacking J. ed. Calif. liposuction. Wis. and political changes are projected.” ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I acknowledge the friendship and assistance of Mungandjo LITERATURE CITED Ahmed S. ed. Berkeley: Univ. In the West as elsewhere. I do not think this fragmentation and decentralization. London: Routledge Anzieu D. For personal use only. In Creativity of Power: Cosmology and Action in African Societies. piercings. monograph 15. branding.annualreviews. In The Anthropology of the Body. Introduction: dermographies. 1–17. Towards an anthropology of the body. London: Academic Boddy J. 1995b. Esquisse d’Une Th´ orie e . 2001. nature and culture. Stacey J. ed. successful. dominant ideology promotes looking young and beautiful (“californication”) as a way of being healthy. Filip De Boeck. On the contrary. 1– 28.

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Patrick Eisenlohr New Technologies and Language Change: Toward an Anthropology of Linguistic Frontiers. 2004. Houston Origins and Development of Urbanism: Archaeological Perspectives. Downloaded from arjournals. Mufwene Talk and Interaction Among Children and the Co-Construction of Peer Groups and Peer Culture. Anthropol. Sapolsky The Peopling of the New World: Perspectives from Molecular Anthropology. Jablonski 271 393 551 585 LINGUISTICS AND COMMUNICATIVE PRACTICES Language Revitalization and New Technologies: Cultures of Electronic Mediation and the Refiguring of Communities. Redmond The Archaeology of Communication by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. For personal use only. Ann Brower Stahl Primary State Formation in Mesoamerica. Salikoko S. Swisher. Susan C. Ant´ n o and Carl C. George L. Amy Kyratzis 21 103 201 625 vii . Robert M.annualreviews. Cook Language Birth and Death. Michael E. 2004 CONTENTS Annu.Annual Review of Anthropology Volume 33.33:251-269. Charles S. III Social Status and Health in Humans and Other Animals. Stephen D. Frontispiece—Marilyn Strathern xiv 1 73 145 173 223 525 PREFATORY CHAPTER The Whole Person and Its Artifacts. Nina G. Spencer and Elsa M. Susan E. Theodore G. Schurr The Evolution of Human Skin and Skin Color. Rev. Marilyn Strathern ARCHAEOLOGY The Archaeology of Ancient State Economies. Smith Political Economic Mosaics: Archaeology of the Last Two Millennia in Tropical Sub-Saharan Africa. Cowgil BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY Early Dispersals of Homo from Africa.

Shirley Lindenbaum Annu. Steven Van Wolputte The Body Beautiful: Symbolism and Agency in the Social World. Jablonski 251 297 319 369 419 585 THEME II: NEW TECHNOLOGIES OF COMMUNICATION Language Revitalization and New Technologies: Cultures of Electronic Mediation and the Refiguring of Communities. Silverman The Evolution of Human Skin and Skin Color. Karen Tranberg Hansen Anthropology and by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. THEME I: THE BODY AS A PUBLIC SURFACE Hang on to Your Self: Of Bodies. Guyer 447 499 47 117 251 297 319 345 369 419 475 SOCIOCULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Music and the Global Order. Stephen D. and Selves. William Mazzarella The World in Dress: Anthropological Perspectives on Clothing. and Culture. Rev. Martin Stokes The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Enid Schildkrout Culture. Susan E. Embodiment.33:251-269. Erica Reischer and Kathryn S. Eric K.annualreviews. Mediation. Cook The Archaeology of Communication Technologies. Jane I. Globalization. Patrick Eisenlohr Music and the Global Order. Fashion. Houston Culture. Embodiment. Martin Stokes New Technologies and Language Change: Toward an Anthropology of Linguistic Frontiers. Koo Inscribing the Body. Eric K. Downloaded from arjournals. Erica Reischer and Kathryn S. and Culture. Birgit Meyer Anthropology in Area Studies. For personal use only. Silverman Thinking About Cannibalism. Karen Tranberg Hansen Anthropology and Circumcision. Globalization. Koo Inscribing the Body. Enid Schildkrout The World in Dress: Anthropological Perspectives on Clothing.viii CONTENTS INTERNATIONAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND REGIONAL STUDIES Christianity in Africa: From African Independent to Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches. Joel Robbins Hang on to Your Self: Of Bodies. Steven Van Wolputte The Body Beautiful: Symbolism and Agency in the Social World. Mediation. and Selves. Nina G. 2004. William Mazzarella 21 47 103 223 345 . Anthropol. Fashion.

Anthropol.annualreviews.shtml by CORNELL UNIVERSITY on 03/12/08. Rev. 2004.CONTENTS ix INDEXES Subject Index Cumulative Index of Contributing Authors. Downloaded from arjournals. .annualreviews. For personal use Volumes 25–33 Cumulative Index of Chapter Titles.33:251-269. Volume 25–33 651 663 666 ERRATA An online log of corrections to Annual Review of Anthropology chapters may be found at http://anthro.

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