Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies

OUP USA (2007)
Abstract
Heyes' monograph in feminist philosophy is on the connection between the idea of "normalization"--which per Foucault is a mode or force of control that homogenizes a population--and the gendered body. Drawing on Foucault and Wittgenstein, she argues that the predominant picture of the self--a picture that presupposes an "inner" core of the self that is expressed, accurately or not, by the outer body--obscures the connection between contemporary discourses and practices of self-transformation and the forces of normalization. In other words, pictures of the self can hold us captive when they are being read from the outer self--the body--rather than the inner self, and we can express our inner self by working on our outer body to conform. Articulating this idea with a mix of the theoretical and the practical, she looks at case studies involving transgender people, weight-loss dieting, and cosmetic surgery. Her concluding chapters look at the difficult issue of how to distinguish non-normalizing practices of the self from normalizing ones, and makes suggestions about how feminists might conceive of subjects as embodied and enmeshed in power relations yet also capable of self-transformation. The subject of normalization and its relationship to sex/gender is a major one in feminist theory; Heyes' book is unique in her masterful use of Foucault; its clarity, and its sophisticated mix of the theoretical and the anecdotal. It will appeal to feminist philosophers and theorists.
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ISBN(s) 9780195310542   0195310543
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Mathieu Potte-Bonneville (2012). Michel Foucault's Bodies. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 43 (1):1-32.
Luna Dolezal (2009). Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics and Normalized Bodies. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 17 (2):345 – 349.
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