In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification

In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0312293119

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Through an interview-based study, Victoria Pitts has researched the subcultural milieu of contemporary body modification, focusing on the ways sexuality, gender and ethnicity are being reconfigured through new body technologies - not only tattooing, but piercing, cyberpunk and such 'neotribal' practices as scarification. She interprets the stories of sixteen body modifiers (as well as some subcultural magazines and films) using the tools of feminist and queer theory. Pitts not only covers a hot topic but also situates it in a theoretical context.

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it became part of the conditions of action, that is, an environmental constraint.”14 Functionalism, for instance, presumed an economic model of the rational actor, and the “body thus became external to the actor, who appeared . . . as a decision-making agent.”15 There have been threads of body theory, though—what Turner calls a “secret history of the body in social theory”—from the nineteenth century to the current period, from Friedrich Nietzsche through Max Weber, Erving Goffman, and Michel

worldviews. Nietzsche inverted the conventional hierarchy between the two, thus valuing the contributory cultural significance of the Dionysian, of the body and embodiedness. Weber analyzed the irrational roots of modern capitalism in early Protestant faith and explored the ironic, ill effects of the hyper-rationality of the Protestant ethic as it was realized in modern bureaucracy, such as the production of over-rationalized 28 IN THE FLESH subjects, including the bureaucratic “specialists.”

She (and her genitalia) were exhibited as evidence of the heightened, excessive sexuality of racial Others. As Anthony Shelton points out, both European and colonized women in the Victorian era faced many sexual constrictions informed by racist and misogynist logic about the uncivilized, savage nature of uncontrolled female sexuality.44 Deviant European women and colonized subjects were regulated, to different degrees, through discourses that linked both the non-conforming and the non-Western

involved race, class, and gender as well as sexuality. Biological determinism has been used as a powerful ideological weapon in “constituting and maintaining 88 IN THE FLESH dominant ideologies of gender,” as Tamsin Wilton puts it in her contribution to the edited volume Women’s Bodies: Discipline and Transgression, and sexuality has regularly been essentialized as fundamental to bodily identity and difference.2 The nineteenth-century coinage of the term “homosexual,” for instance, was not

of personal vulnerability he felt. “[M]ost of these people knew me. . . . I did have friends around me . . . it’s an accepting situation, and people understand where you’re coming from. You may be a freak but you’re a good freak.” Dave describes the branding ritual as a pleasurable, intimate, erotic drama. Raelyn, the woman who branded him, had warned the audience that if she held the metal on his skin too long, Dave’s flesh and muscle VISIBLY QUEER 99 would melt under its heat. Within the

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