This book investigates the concept of body shame and explores its significance when considering philosophical accounts of embodied subjectivity, providing phenomenological reflections on how the body is shaped by social forces.
Despite several decades of feminist activism and scholarship, women’s bodies continue to be sites of control and contention both materially and symbolically. Issues such as reproductive technologies, sexual violence, objectification, motherhood, and sex trafficking, among others, constitute ongoing, pressing concerns for women’s bodies in our contemporary milieu, arguably exacerbated in a neoliberal world where bodies are instrumentalized as sites of human capital. This book engages with these themes by building on the strong tradition of feminist thought focused on women’s bodies, (...) and by making novel contributions that reflect feminists’ concerns—both theoretically and empirically—about gender and embodiment in the present context and beyond. The collection brings together essays from a variety of feminist scholars who deploy diverse theoretical approaches, including phenomenology, pragmatism, and new materialisms, in order to examine philosophically the question of the current status of gendered bodies through cutting-edge feminist theory. (shrink)
This article examines the phenomenology of body shame in the context of the clinical encounter, using the television program ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ as illustrative. I will expand on the insights of Aaron Lazare’s 1987 article ‘Shame and Humiliation in the Medical Encounter’ where it is argued that patients often see their diseases and ailments as defects, inadequacies or personal shortcomings and that visits to doctors and medical professionals involve potentially humiliating physical and psychological exposure. I will start by outlining a phenomenology (...) of shame in order to understand more clearly the effect shame about the body can have in terms of one’s personal experience and, furthermore, one’s interpersonal dynamics. I will then examine shame in the clinical encounter, linking body shame to the cultural stigma attached to illness, dysfunction and bodily frailty. I will furthermore explore how shame can be exacerbated or even incited by physicians through judgment and as a result of the power imbalance inherent to the physician-patient dynamic, compounded by the contemporary tendency to moralise about ‘lifestyle’ illnesses. Lastly, I will provide some reflections for how health care workers might approach patient shame in clinical practice. (shrink)
Through positing that our capacity for physical vulnerability is at the core of original shame, Sartre’s account in Being and Nothingness reveals shame as an essential structure of human existence. Reading Sartre’s ontological account of ‘pure shame’ alongside recent writing about shame in early child development, particularly Martha Nussbaum’s account of ‘primitive shame,’ this article will explore the inherent links between shame, the body and vulnerability, ultimately positing that our human need for belonging is the fundamental driving force behind shame, (...) and what gives it its ontological status. In short, this article will argue that shame is not merely about a painful awareness of one’s flaws or transgressions with reference to norms and others, but about a deeper layer of relationality through our bodily vulnerability. (shrink)
This paper will examine the experience of and drive for bodily invisibility in women through the theoretical approaches of phenomenology and social constructionism. An examination of the social disruptions of bodily invisibility and the compulsive avoidance of such instances, particularly with respect to the fastidious maintenance of body comportment and appearance within the narrow parameters afforded by social norms, will lead to an exploration of the conflation of biomedicine with the beauty industry.
Jean-Paul Sartre's account of the Look in Being and Nothingness is not straightforward and many conflicting interpretations have arisen due to apparent contradictions in Sartre's own writing. The Look, for Sartre, demonstrates how the self gains thematic awareness of the body, forming a public and self-conscious sense of how the body appears to others and, furthermore, illustrates affective and social aspects of embodied being. In this article, I will critically explore Sartre's oft-cited voyeur vignette in order to provide a coherent (...) account of the Look and to illustrate the significance of intersubjectivity and self-consciousness in Sartre's work. Through considering Sartre's voyeur vignette and other examples of reflective self-consciousness, this article will examine epistemological, self-evaluative and ontological concerns in the constitution of reflective self-consciousness. It will be contended that Sartre's accounts of the Look and reflective self-consciousness within social relations can provide insight into the intersubjective nature of the shaping of the body and the significance of self-presentation within the social realm. (shrink)
In this musing we consider how social distancing, the primary public health measure introduced to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, is creating social encounters characterized by a self-and-other-consciousness and an atmosphere of suspicion, leading to what we call “alienated embodied communication.” Whilst interaction rituals dominated by avoidance, fear and distrust are novel for many individuals who occupy positions of social privilege, Black and ethnic minority writers have demonstrated that the alienated bodily communication of COVID-19 social distancing is “nothing (...) new” for people who routinely experience marginalization as a result of racism. Our aim in this musing, then, is to reflect on how on-going experiences of stigma, shame, and marginalization can shape how social distancing is registered on an embodied and existential level, and therefore how social distancing may differentially impact individuals with lived experiences of racism. (shrink)
Self-presentation is a term that indicates conscious and unconscious strategies for controlling or managing how one is perceived by others in terms of both appearance and comportment. In this article, I will discuss the phenomenology of self-presentation with respect to the phenomenological insights of Edmund Husserl and Merleau-Ponty regarding the visibility of the body within intercorporeal relations through ‘behaviour’ and ‘expression.’ In doing so, I will turn to the work of the Canadian sociologist and social theorist Erving Goffman. Goffman’s account (...) of self-presentation suggests why embodied subjects adopt certain styles of ordered bodily behaviour as determined by the broader social order, giving existential and social significance to the ontological structures of intercorporeal bodily communication. Following Goffman, I will suggest that the embodied subject is continuously—and constitutionally—engaged in implicit and explicit strategies to manage how the body is presented to others. In articulating self-presentation as a feature of intercorporeality, my aim in this article is to use Goffman’s insights to extend Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s accounts of bodily communication by demonstrating that bodily communication that is instantiated at the level of intercorporeality is always expressed through social life with its various historical, cultural and linguistic dimensions. (shrink)
Experiences of shame are not always discrete, but can be recurrent, persistent or enduring. To use the feminist phenomenologist Sandra Lee Bartky’s formulation, shame is not always an acute event, but can become a “pervasive affective attunement” (Bartky, 1990 : 85). Instead of experiencing shame as a discrete event with a finite duration, it can be experienced as a persistent, and perhaps, permanent possibility in daily life. This sort of pervasive or persistent shame is commonly referred to as “chronic shame” (...) (Pattison, 2000 ; Nathanson, 1992 ; Dolezal, 2015 ). Chronic shame is frequently associated with political oppression and marginalization. In chronic shame, it is the potentiality of shame, rather than the actuality, that is significant. In other words, the anticipation of shame (whether explicit or implicit) comes to be a defining feature of one’s lived experience. Living with chronic shame has important socio-political consequences. Thus far, chronic shame has eluded simple phenomenological analysis, largely because chronic shame often does not have a clear experiential profile: it is frequently characterised by the _absence_ rather than the _presence_ of shame. The aim of this article is to provide a phenomenology of chronic shame, drawing from Edmund Husserl’s formulation of the ‘horizon’ as a means a to discuss structural aspects of chronic shame experiences, in particular how chronic shame is characterised by structures of absence and anticipation. (shrink)
Feminist theory and philosophy has evinced an ongoing scholarly interest in the body and embodiment. Corporeal feminism, as it has been called by some, theorises the effects of patriarchal power structures on the female body, and hence, on women’s subjectivity and social position. As we progress into the 21st Century, despite several decades of feminist activism and scholarship, women’s bodies continue to be sites of control and contention both materially and symbolically. Issues such as reproductive rights and technologies, sexual violence, (...) objectification and normalization, motherhood, sexuality, and sex trafficking, among others, continue to be pressing concerns for women’s bodies in our contemporary milieu, arguably exacerbated in a neoliberal world where bodies are instrumentalized as sites of human capital, and biopolitical forces increasingly focus on controlling the minutiae of embodied life. (shrink)
Through exploring some of the foundational and structural aspects of the experience of home from a feminist perspective, this article will draw from Iris Marion Young’s reflections on home, female experience and embodiment to argue that home is central to our ontological and subjective constitution. While acknowledging that home can be a problematic concept in the socio-political realm, particularly for feminist thinkers, this article contends that a feminist reading of the phenomenology of home is crucial to understanding some of the (...) foundational features of human subjectivity. In doing so, it will explore aspects of some existing phenomenological accounts of home and dwelling which posit that home is an ontological structure, outlining a feminist phenomenology of home that explores three interwoven aspects: (1) home as forming an on-tological ground of human subjectivity; (2) home as a gendered space; (3) and pregnant embodiment as the “first home.” Dans cet article, nous explorerons quelques aspects fondamentaux de l’expérience du « chez-soi » dans une perspective féministe, inspirée par les réflexions d’Iris Marion Young à propos du chez-soi, de l’expérience féminine et du corps vécu. Nous affirmerons que le chez-soi est au centre de notre constitution ontologique et subjective. Tout en prenant acte du caractère problématique du « chez-soi » dans le champ sociopolitique, et ce, tout particulièrement pour les philosophes féministes, nous soutiendrons qu’une approche féministe de la phénoménologie du « chez-soi » est nécessaire pour comprendre plusieurs aspects fondamentaux de la subjectivité hu-maine. Pour ce faire, nous présenterons d’abord quelques théories phénoménologiques existantes du chez-soi et de l’habitation [dwelling] qui considèrent le chez-soi comme une structure ontologique. Ensuite, nous insisterons sur trois aspects entrelacés d’une phénoménologie féministe du chez-soi : (1) le chez-soi comme fondation ontologique de la subjectivité humaine; (2) le chez-soi comme un espace genré; et (3) l’expérience corporelle d’être enceinte comme le « premier chez-soi ». (shrink)
This article provides an introduction to the special issue “Emotions of the Pandemic: Phenomenological Perspectives”. We begin by outlining how phenomenological research can illuminate various forms of emotional experience associated with the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we propose that a consideration of pandemic experience, in all its complexity and diversity, has the potential to yield wider-ranging phenomenological insights. We go on to discuss the thirteen contributions that follow, identifying common themes and points of complementarity.
In this paper, we analyse the particular phenomena of COVID-19 pandemic shaming. We examine Sartre’s account of the undifferentiated other in the experience of ‘the look’, and his insistence on shame as a foundational relational affect, in order to give a robust theoretical frame to understand how pandemic shaming circulated both online and offline, in targeted and diffuse manners. We focus on two features of pandemic shaming. First, we draw attention to the structural necessity of an audience in acts of (...) pandemic shaming, where the shamer acts on behalf of a community of others, the audience, to perform and enforce a set of standards, values or norms. We turn to the we-experience and collective emotions literature and discuss how the shamer believes themselves to be ‘speaking’ on behalf of a community who share their outrage along with their values. Second, we discuss how the presumption of a collective emotion was frequently mistaken in acts of pandemic shaming, where shaming frequently led to shame backlashes, where the audience revealed themselves not to share the emotion and values of the shamer, consequently shaming the shamer. We argue that Jean-Paul Sartre’s voyeur example is usefully illustrative of the tripartite structure of (1) shamed, (2) shamer and (3) shamer of the shamer that occurs in iterative processes of pandemic shaming, which are accompanied by shaming backlashes. We conclude by reflecting on the socio-historical context for Sartre’s accounts of shame and ‘the look’, namely the German occupation of Paris and Sartre’s experience of the French Resistance movement, and how these yield a particular socio-historical framing that makes evident how the extraordinary pseudo-wartime conditions of COVID-19 rendered atmospheres of distrust and suspicion prevalent. (shrink)