The new cultural history has rendered the historical epistemology of the human body a privileged site for scholarly intervention in social anthropology and other related disciplines. As a cultural metaphor, as manifestation of lived experience, as medium of existential encounter with the outer world and as a surface of social calligraphy, the human body spans varied categories of the extant strands of contemporary hermeneutic discourses.
The essays in the present volume regard the human body more as a social subject than a social object. The volume accommodates variegated encounters of the biological body with the exterior world mostly from an Indian standpoint. The authors have explored the varied experiences of being embodied - the social subject's interactions with the surrounding context — as also its role as carrier of cultural, social and symbolical agents. While exploring the various contours of the 'corporeal self the authors have captured fascinating glimpses of the 'representative' body. The present volume does not claim to represent a comprehensive account of body history. It is rather an incoherent bundle of scholarly conceptualizations of the human body discursively shaped to facilitate practices of knowledge production.
Sudit Krishna Kumar is Associate Professor at the Department of History in the University of Burdwan. His research interests are the social and economic history of nineteenth-century Bengal. He is currently working on a monograph on insolvency and the middle class in nineteenth-century Bengal.
Suvobrata Sarkar is Assistant Professor of History at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. Earlier he taught at the University of Burdwan. His area of research is the social history of technology in colonial India. He is the author of The Quest for Technical Knowledge: Bengal in the Nineteenth Century (2012) and Let There be Light: Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Electricity in Colonial Bengal 1880-1945 (2020).
Sudit krishna kumar and suvobrata sarkar
New cultural history has rendered the historical epistemology of the human body a privileged site for scholarly intervention not only in social anthropology but also in other related disciplines. As a cultural metaphor, as manifestation of lived experience, as medium of existential encounter with the outer world and as a surface for social calligraphy, the human body spans varied categories of the extant strands of contemporary hermeneutic discourses. This discursive diversity is explicable in terms of the differential relevancies of the human body to various academic disciplines.
Roy Porter remarked in 2001 that the history of the human body had become the 'historiographical dish of the day:' The human body as a cultural trope and an instrument of lived experience represents a widely contested area in contemporary social sciences. The body, being the site of culturally legible practices, constitutes a unique domain for scholastic intervention. Discursive construction of the body in recent years has brought onto the surface a host of attributes of embodied personhood such as body practices, body ideals, objectification of the body, symbolic communication of social identity, cultural variability, gender, sex and disease. What is most compelling about this literature is that it is grounded in social theorizations. In the process, archaeology of the body has emerged as a distinctive field of inquiry drawing heavily on phenomenology, feminism and Foucauldian postulates.
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