The Body and other others

think about kathy's lecture from last week -- insides/outsides
today we discuss another binary mind/body
-- you should be able to think through what might be at stake for bodies that make art


2 key principles:

logic of domination

1. somatophobia -- fear of the body

religious connection: many religions divide self/body
body is, at best, irrelevant
more likely 'decaying, destructive, locus of temptation --> devalues body, elevates soul
--resurrected body would be 'perfect and male'

philosophy: mind (not soul) vs body

Descartes (I think therefore I am) mind is a machine -- what is properly human -- devaluing and fearfulness of bodily expression (denial and repression)

now, how does this intersect with gender? race? If we could draw it, what would it look like?





-- emotions, sexuality, hunger, animal instinct
ect etc


-- female/black etc. rationality not fully formed

-- cool, lucid intellectual male vs, torrid confused, female etc.

-- little rational control in those associated with the body. Behaviour must be controlled through laws, social constraint

if some groups of people are this way by nature, not fully mature human beings, then it's natural for more 'rational' groups (white/men) to control them.

Closer to animal nature

Malleus maleficarum (hammer of witches) -- understandable that most witches are women because:

"They are feebler both in mind and body, so ti is not surprising that they should come under the spell of witchcraft. ... women are intellectually like children... she always deceives... women also have weak memories... she is a liar by nature"


2. domination

the logic of somatophobia leads to the idea that some groups of 'others' must be controlled

Aristotle (384-322 BC) women are 'almost-men' -- less intrinsic or vital soul heat"

argument from nature: evidence: empirical observation that women produce blood and men produce semen

-- argues (?) That blood is not as refined

tied this to reproduction:

'flowerpot theory' -- women contribute only matter (nutrients, heat) but not form (which comes from semen)

THEREFORE women seen as containers, lower on the reproductive hierarchy women: "deformity which occurs in the ordinary course of nature"

------> groundwork for a patriarchal society

Thomas Aquinas: "woman is defective and misbegotten" male

-- in this way groups associated with the body lack 'fully realized humanity'

Schopenhauer -- women are 'big children all their lives -- trivial"


basically justified in two ways

early science: brain size...thigh bone. hormone levels, brain size, ratio of brain surface to body surface, etc. Body size and strength [is this or should it be about 'natural' physical strength (which, btw and as we shall see, varies considerably through time and across cultures)],

-- think of this when you view the Baartman film


this foundation's relationship to traditional scholarship and to artistic practice

-- throughout the centuries, theologians, philosophers and scientists have produced theory after theory to discredit women's/colonial/black etc.rationality and capacity of theoretical discourse, reserving the critical analytical thinking for white males and assigning an emotional or intuitive domain to white man's 'others'.

-- when those 'othered' try to break through gender constraints by being more intellectually assertive, challenging authority, speaking up -- can be labelled uncoopertative, angry, aggressive, strident.

given all this, what kind of art is being made?

-- a great deal of artistic work 'talks back' to these ideas about the body
-- many feminist artists initially reject the body, resist this identification an then return to it with a vengeance

the film today: life and times of saraa baartman ... a real life example of the kind of racist views of the body we've talked about today. What is the effect on contemporary understandings of the body? To what extent do you believe the kinds of ideas discussed in the film have power today? power to do what? Think about what a contemporary artistic response might be.

in two week's time: Reclaiming the Body: feminist art in America... you'll be able to see some examples of how some feminist artists have rejected/taken up the body in their work


To think about: It is not only that the body has been a central feature of much art, but that different bodies are responsible for making the art, and that different conceptions of the relationship and interpretation of the body are integral to that making. There is no representation of the body which is not mediated by some form of collective knowledge or ideology.