Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Body in Space

The Body in Cyberspace VS Real Space.

How does one construct the body in both? Is virtual space a place that we can remake our bodies and construct a conception that is acceptable? In real space, certain bodies are deemed taboo, or disordered, inappropriate or the focus of (un)wanted attention. Here we might consider that cyberspace offers a place in which one can re-construct and re-conceptualize the body.
Jodi Toni Allen's Thesis entitled "Pro-Ana as Negotiating (Dis)order in cyberspace: how women reproduce, restructure, and challenge 'Psy' discourse" (which has been fantastically helpful as a basis of my readings) posits that the Pro-Ana community - as it relates to specific websites such as Cerulean Butterfly and Ana's Underground Grotto (which as far as I can tell no longer exists) - ultimately challenges the labels of 'diseased' and 'disordered' by reclaiming them. Without summarizing, I would like to explicate a key point of her research being that there are linkages to how self-perception and self-presentation online can and does challenge the medical and psychology professional community that gives EDs titles and diagnosis that may have negative impacts.

In 'real' space, we might consider that the body is always constructed and is always social. Anthony Synnott's text "The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society" discusses the body in social, real space. As summed up concisely:
...the body has been, and still is, constructed in almost as many ways as there are individuals; it seems to be all things to all people. Thus the body is defined as good or bad; tomb or temple...private or public...a corpse or the self...Any construction of the body, however, is also a construction of the self as embodied; and as such, influences not only how the body is treated but also how life is lived. Some love the body, some hate it; some hide it, some flaunt it; some 'bruise' it (Paul) and others pamper it with 'nice, large pike and good Rhine wine' (Luther)...Indeed implications are immense, affecting virtually all areas of one's life. At present there is no consensus on the meaning of the body and, in a pluralistic society, to consensus can be expected. constructions reflect the values not only of the culture, but also of the sub-culture, and of the specific individuals, and they are ever-changing [sic]. Thus the discourse continues, debating whether and to what degree, and in what ways, the body is tomb or temple, loved or hated, personal or state property, machine or self (Synnott, Anthony. "The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society" London: Routledge, 1993. Pg. 37).

These two texts are very helpful in underpinning this project, however, there is much literature on not only the body, but EDs in general, as well cyberspace commuities. I am really working on trying to get a strong theoretical framework form which to assess my reading, interacting and interviews.

As a side note, I am also currently doing some reading on constructions of the 'Tantric body' for a class on Hindu religious practices. That the body is inherently social is also cross-cultural. Here I offer an example from Gavin Flood's text "The Tantric Body: The Sectret Tradition of Hindu Religion" in his discussion of the expectations for the body of the renouncer that has historically influenced the 'tantric body': "The body is a vehicle for a successful life, but only through its strict control and avoidance of impurity and spontaneous desire" (Flood, Gavin. "The Tantric Body: The Sectret Tradition of Hindu Religion" London: I.B. Taurus, 2006. Pg. 40). Here is talking about the ascetic body, and its control, its concern for maintaining purity, controlling impulses and so on. As I was reading about this 'out of context' body, something about this idea really resonated with this project.

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