Five Bodies offers an introduction to some of the most urgent contemporary concerns within the sociology of the body. The book was first published in 1985 in the USA by Cornell University Press, and was nominated for the John Porter Award (sponsored by the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association). A path breaking book, it offered a framework for the growing field of the sociology of the body and opened up ‘the body’ for sociological research. This new edition (the previous edition was published by Cornell University Press (1985) has been substantially revised and updated to address today's issues of the body in modern life, community and politics. John O'Neill examines how embodied selves and relationships are being re-shaped and re-figured and how the embodied figures of the polity, economy and society represent the contested notions of identity, desire, wholeness and fragmentation. He focuses upon those cultural practices through which we map our macro–micro worlds: articulating a cosmology; a body politic; a productive/consumptive economy; a bio-technological frontier of human design and transplantation.

Social Bodies

Social bodies

When we turn from the world's body to look at the smaller world of society and kinship, we are struck to find that people have also conceived the relation between their individual lives and the institutions of society in terms of the imagery of the human body. Lévi-Strauss observes:

The Australian tribes of the Drysdale River, in Northern Kimberley divide all kinship relations, which together compose the social ‘body’, into five categories named after a part of the body or a muscle. Since a stranger must not be questioned, he announces his kinship by moving the relevant muscle. In this case, too, therefore, the total system of social relations, itself bound up with a system of the universe, can be projected on to ...

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