Arien Mack, Editor
Assumptions about the "normal," "healthy," and "acceptable" body lead to policies around the world that are unjust. Papers in these two issues examine the body as an international human rights arena in which competing forces—including religion, science, medicine, media, and the market—struggle for control over the policies that regulate our bodies.
PART I. KEYNOTE ADDRESS
The Trace: Violence, Truth, and the Politics of the Body
The state has a foundational relation with violence that is based on a social contract in which the state protects society from violence through law and law enforcement, and in exchange it is granted the monopoly of legitimate violence. The contract holds as long as individuals receive sufficient security from the state and are not overly subjected to abuse by it. When it is not respected, either because security is denied or abuse is gross, individuals may feel entitled to resist the state or even revolt against it. The foundational violence of the state as well as the potential opposition of social actors has a common site where they manifest themselves: the body.
PART II. CONCEPTIONS OF THE "NORMAL" BODY
Introduction: Conceptions of the “Normal” Body
The papers in this section demonstrate the rich possibilities in bringing frames of political normativity and its production of legible and illegible bodies into the domain of critique. Broadly, they ask: How might we think through the appearance and disappearance of bodies in normative frameworks of power-as an object of discipline, as a producer and product of desire, as the space of economic calculation and risk-taking? A technique many of them share is to locate and explore social and historical points of normative shift and instability.
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Joan’s Two Bodies: A Study in Political Anthropology
From all of the evidence, Joan of Arc was a conventionally pious Catholic and a patriotic Frenchman. Yet she was tried as a heretic and executed as a traitor. She unnerved both her friends and her enemies in the church and the state with her zeal. And she continues to fascinate. Almost six centuries after she was burned at the stake, her body still has life. This essay uses Kantorowicz's reading of the historical development of the legal fiction of the king's two bodies to re-focus our attention on what Joan of Arc accomplished as a political actor.
John R. Bowen
How the French State Justifies Controlling Muslim Bodies: From Harm-Based to Values-Based Reasoning
As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, political leaders across Western Europe have increasingly pointed to Muslims' bodily attitudes as indicative of their refusal to join the wider society, and as indicative of the failure of the society to sufficiently carry out programs of political socialization and assimilation. Among the targeted practices have been covering the hair or face (for women), wearing loose, short trousers (for men), refusing to shake hands with those of the opposite sex, and praying in the street (for men and women). Political actors have made both broader and more specific claims: that these badges of separation show that some Muslims refuse the rules of common social life, and that covering the hair or face shows that the oppression of women, either in particular cases or generally, remains part of Islamic culture. Civic "normality" is thereby portrayed against images of its opposite: people who by their bodily practices show themselves to be visibly and slavishly obedient, unmodern, and sectarian. I examine here how politically useful condemnations have been given the force of law in France. In particular, I trace a shift in the legal justifications for French laws and decisions targeting women's dress during the first decade of the 2000s. The shift, to be found in texts of court decisions and administrative practice, consists in moving from harm-based arguments to values-based ones.
Elof Axel Carlson
The Body as a Biological and Genetic Entity
What is meant by a genetic disorder? To the biologist, the lack of pigment when the typical situation is pigmentation is an abnormality. An albino alligator, an albino giraffe, or an albino tiger stands out and surprises the beholder, because in the experience of those who have observed populations of alligators, giraffes, or tigers, these are rare. We may have difficulty defining what is normal among humans but there is a huge quantitative distinction between the words "typical" and "atypical." When an unusual event is one in several tens of thousands, it is atypical. But the problem is more than a quantitative one. If we do think dualistically about that which harms us and that which benefits us when it comes to alien life in our bodies, should we also think that way about gene mutations?
João Biehl and Adriana Petryna
Bodies of Rights and Therapeutic Markets
Brazil is among the approximately 100 countries that recognize a constitutional right to health that includes access to medicines. All over Brazil, patients are turning to courts to access prescribed medicines. Although lawsuits secure access for thousands of people, at least temporarily, this judicialization of the right to health generates intensely complex sociomedical realities and significant administrative and fiscal challenges that, officials argue, have the potential to widen inequalities in health-care delivery. In this article, we explore how right-to-health litigation became (in the wake of a successful universal AIDS treatment policy) an alternative pathway for Brazilians to access health care, now understood as access to medicines that are either on government lists for pharmaceutical distribution or are only available through the market. Is the judicial system an effective venue to implement socioeconomic rights? Which practices of citizenship and governance are crystallized in these struggles over drug access and administrative accountability?
As ever more countries enter the global economy, reshaping the body has become the means by which women are encouraged to enter modernity. Once bodies were local, marked by their own local traditions. Today, variety is replaced by uniformity. The formerly plump Miss Nigeria is superseded by a thin westernized version and sets the trend for how contemporary Nigerian women are to look. Encouraged to see the body as a consuming center, a personal logo that signifies our membership of the global community, bodies across the world are being commercialized and restructured. This development means that we are losing bodies as we lose mother tongue languages. Standardization is supplanting diversity as facsimile bodies become the new calling card of belonging and identity.
Sumita S. Chakravarty
Reflections on the Body Beautiful in Indian Popular Culture
In what ways does a society perceive itself as beautiful? Do images of physical perfection indicate aspirations of the social or national body, the perfect body/face emblematic of the collective self-image? In recent years, under conditions of economic and cultural globalization, practices and discourses to render the body beautiful have come under increasing scrutiny. Concerned with the marketing and commodification of body ideals, these studies trace the deleterious effects of advertising, fashion, and celebrity culture in various national and cross-cultural contexts. Yet beauty itself is strangely absent in historical and aesthetic accounts of traditional and new media. In this essay, I try to account for this absence and to provide an alternative view of Indian society's relationship to media images of the body. Using examples from popular cinema, I explore the historical and cultural meanings underlying the fascination with the beautiful.
Disability and the Normal Body of the (Native) Citizen Contents
"No person who is diseased, maimed, or deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object shall expose himself to public view." My research on this municipal ordinance (often called the "ugly law"), a nineteenth-century statute adopted in many U.S. cities, showed me the extent to which US immigration law has been ugly law writ large. The body politic of American democratic citizenry binds itself together through an internal logic that, even as it attempts to manage the incorporation of disabled subjects, drives disability down or assumes it away. But it has never done so decisively, and never without contradiction. Native American history gives us an especially valuable frame for thinking through questions of American citizenship and the ways in which it intertwines with disability, since it reveals so clearly the dizzying array of contestations and confusions about who "has" citizenship and what responsibilities the state has to those who do not. This essay centers on a Yavapai man who lived in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century in a vortex of conflict about citizenship: Carlos Montezuma, physician and a prominent Native American intellectual, cofounder of the National Society of American Indians, and radical critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I explore some of the ways in which Montezuma developed not only (shifting) theories of citizenship but also theories of disability based on what he called "the standpoint of actual circumstance," ideas that speak to our understandings of the body of the citizen today.
Making Willing Bodies: The University of Chicago Human Experiments at Stateville Penitentiary
In March 1944, doctors at the University of Chicago began infecting prisoners at Stateville penitentiary with a virulent strand of malaria to test the effectiveness and side-effects of potent anti-malarial drugs. According to Dr. Alf Sven Alving, the principal investigator, malaria "was the number-one medical problem of the war in the Pacific, for we were losing far more men to malaria than to enemy bullets." This refrain would rehearse one of the most productive ways of speaking about live prisoner experimentation. The Stateville inmates became human once again and regained their citizenship and political voice by giving their bodies to the war effort. In this essay, I explore how the consent of the prisoners was constructed and how it compares to the way in which we fabricate the willingness of soldiers to sacrifice their lives for their country. I begin to explore the question: How is it, exactly, that we ask someone to die for us?
PART III: THE SEXUAL BODY
Introduction: The Sexual Body
We tend to think of the use of our body for sex as an intensely personal concern. All things being equal, people would prefer that the state keep out of the bedroom. Among other things, sexual acts are extremely pleasurable, bind two or more individuals together, even if only for the briefest period of time, serve as the basis of intense intimacy, allow for reproduction, and, perhaps even more so than religion, inspire countless artists to create paintings, songs, plays, and novels of the highest order. Hirst introduces the second part of this issue by exploring how sex, which is something so critical to identity and well-being, can be controlled by the state. The papers in this section underscore how difficult it can be to keep the state not only out of the bedroom, but away from our sexual bodies altogether.
God’s Body, or, The Lingam Made Flesh: Conflicts over the Representation of the Sexual Body of the Hindu God Shiva
A dispute about the symbolism of the lingam, a cylindrical votary object that represents the Hindu god Shiva, has been going on for many centuries: is its meaning inexorably tied to a particular part of the physical body of the god, or is it abstract, purely spiritual? This essay will trace the history of this dispute, considering both icons made of carved stone in India that may or may not represent lingams and images made of words in Indian texts that refer to lingams in contexts that are sometimes ambiguous but often quite clear. Underlying this particular debate is the more general problem of the ambiguity of the symbolism, particularly the religious symbolism, of the body and of forms that represent the divine body. The history of interpretations of the lingam in India reveals the ways that the actions of the state-in this case, the presence of foreign powers, Muslim and British, who viewed the lingam negatively-have deeply influenced native Hindu perceptions of the body of their own god.
The State’s Oversight: From Sexual Bodies to Erotic Selves
In thinking about the relationship between the sexed body and the state, it is worth recalling that both have a history. This essay, divided into two sections, uses the example of nineteenth-century England, which has had an exemplary status in scholarship on both the state and sexuality, to highlight the variability of law and government with respect to the body. The first section shows how a particular state during a key historical period produced sexuality through its decisions to protect and regulate some bodies and not to regulate and protect others through the state's marriage laws and sodomy laws. The second section of this essay looks beyond sexuality to explore state oversight in the second sense of the term: as an omission or lapse in attention. What were the intimate matters to which the state was relatively indifferent?
Verdicts of Science, Rulings of Faith: Transgender/Sexuality in Contemporary Iran
International reports welcoming Iran's recognition of transgender/sexuality and the permissibility of sex-change operations sometimes mixed celebration with an element of surprise: How could this be happening in an Islamic state? In other, and especially later, accounts, the sanctioning of sex-change became tightly framed through a comparison with punishment for sodomy (a capital offense) and the presumed illegality of homosexuality. For legal and medical authorities in Iran, sex-change is explicitly framed as the cure for a diseased abnormality, and on occasion it is proposed as a religio-legally sanctioned option for heteronormalizing people with same-sex desires and practices In this essay I aim to capture the polytheistic scattered practices that were a critical element in shaping trans-lives and subjectivities in this period in Iran, to map out a situated "cartography of desire," which locates the contemporary discourses and practices of transgender/sexuality in a longer historical trajectory and intersecting discursive sites, including medicine, religious doctrine, psychology, criminology, the family, trans-activism, and practices of everyday life. What transgender/sexual as a "human kind" means today in Iran is specific to a nexus formed not simply by transnational diffusion of concepts and practices from a Western heartland to the rest, but is also the product of the sociocultural and political situation in Iran over the previous half century.
Paisley Currah and Tara Mulqueen
Securitizing Gender: Identity, Biometrics, and Transgender Bodies at the Airport
It is widely assumed that the more information surveillance apparatuses can collect about an individual, the less risk she poses. In this article, we examine how gender figures into and potentially disrupts the link between identity and security. Our analysis centers on one very particular event: the confusion that erupts at the airport when US Transportation Security Administration agents perceive a conflict between the gender marked on one's papers, the image of one's body produced by a machine, and/or an individual's perceived gender presentation. Gender has been so deeply naturalized-as immutable, as easily apprehended, and as existing before and outside of political arrangements-for so long that its installation in identity verification practices largely goes unthought. In what follows, we describe how the two TSA programs, "Secure Flight" and "Advanced Imaging Technology," operationalize gender differently. We examine what happens when different sources of knowledge about gender clash within the security assemblage of the airport. As part of state security apparatuses' unceasing quest for more and better information, both programs securitize gender. They also reveal the impossibility of predicting with certainty that something about a person, even something thought to be sourced/lodged in the body such as gender, will stay the same over time. We argue, however, that the effects of gender's unreliability as a measure of identity do not constitute a problem for the TSA but rather for the transgender individuals whose narratives, documents, and bodies reveal the category's mutability. We conclude by suggesting that the securitization of gender at the airport is best understood as an assemblage.
Charles W. Mills
Body Politic, Bodies Impolitic
Starting from Thomas Hobbes's distinctively materialist version of social contract theory, I argue that Hobbes can assist us in theorizing the racialized body politic of the white LEVIATHAN that is the United States. However, we will need to go beyond his own qualified materialism to recognize the social materiality of race, a materiality not to be reduced to, though incorporating, the body.
Violence and Humanity: Or, Vulnerability as Political Subjectivity
This paper is framed around a close reading and discussion of the juridical category of "caste atrocity," a form of postcolonial legislation instituted by the Indian state in 1955 (amended 1976, and 1989) to protect Dalits, or ex-untouchables, from the threat of upper-caste violence. The paper addresses the problematic permeability between humanity and violence assumed by such protective laws, and argues that rather than protecting Dalits from harm, laws to prevent violence have instead succeeded in making caste violence visible, and a new site of political activism: spectacular and everyday practices of (caste) violence confirm the partial or uncertain humanity of historically stigmatized subjects, but it is also the case that violence functions as a form of public communication that enables new formations of caste politics. The paper ends by suggesting that attention to the biopolitics of caste can help produce a global accounting of how the violated subject has come to be constituted as a "body of the state."
Sexual Orientations, Rights, and the Body: Immutability, Essentialism, and Nativism
Both advocates and opponents of lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights (LGB rights) make reference to whether and how sexual orientations are embodied, namely whether one's sexual orientation is innate, unchangeable, or a "natural fact". In particular, in the United States, discussion centers on whether LGB people are "born that way" or "choose" to be gay. In litigation about LGB rights, this discussion connects to the so-called immutability factor in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. My presentation surveys the surrounding conceptual and the legal issues and focuses on how they play out in the context of recent court cases related to marriage for same-sex couples. I argue that in legal as well as political and social contexts, it is a better strategy to focus on justice, equality and fairness and to avoid biological, psychological, and other scientific issues about how sexual orientations are embodied.
Michael G. Peletz
Gender Pluralism: Muslim Southeast Asia since Early Modern Times
This paper examines three big ideas: difference, legitimacy, and pluralism. Of chief concern is how people construe and deal with variation among fellow human beings. Why under certain circumstances do people embrace or even sanctify differences, or at least begrudgingly tolerate them, and why in other contexts are people less receptive to difference, sometimes overtly hostile to it and bent on its eradication? What are the cultural and political conditions conducive to the positive valorization and acceptance of difference? And, conversely, what conditions undermine or erode such positive views and acceptance? Taking as its point of departure the prevalence of transgendered ritual specialists and the prestige accorded them throughout much of Southeast Asia's history, this paper examines pluralism with respect to gender and sexuality among Southeast Asian Muslims since the early modern era, which historians and anthropologists of the region commonly define as the period extending roughly from the 15th to the 18th centuries.