When physiotherapists refer to the body, they’re often referring to the body that’s defined by biomedicine: organised into systems; physical; patho-anatomical; cellular; the place where injury and illness can be located; biological. But this only accounts for a small group of ‘bodies’ that we encounter in practice every day.
A recent conference announcement highlighted some of the bodies that Victorians were interested in, and many of these still interest physiotherapists:
- busy bodies
- body markings
- disabled bodies
- bodies behaving badly
- the body as spectacle
- fragmented bodies
- queer bodies
- raced bodies
- disciplined bodies
- animal bodies
- circus & freak show bodies
- bodies at work or play
- bodies in contact
- unlikely friendships/romances
- sexy bodies
- naked bodies
- diseased bodies
- the anatomized body
- dead bodies
- body snatchers
- spirit bodies
- mythical bodies
- angels, monsters, and ghosts
- the gendered body
- intellectual women
- odd women, blue stockings, New Women
- the body of the insane, the eccentric
- characters & caricatures
- ugly bodies
- corporate bodies
- bodies of knowledge
- bodies of evidence
- bodies of work
- colonial bodies
- traveling bodies
- and the body politic… (Source: Interdisciplinary 19th century studies conference)
Now clearly, not all of these bodies are relevant to physiotherapists, but there are also bodies here that are central to our work that we rarely ever think about, explore, discuss or research.
It reminds me of some of the great books on bodies in sociology that have been written over the last 20 years (see recommended readings below). If you are interested in bodies, as you’d imagine most of our colleagues should be, you could do worse than read some of the writings of people like Bryan Turner, Nick Fox, Debbie Lupton, Sarah Nettleton and Chris Shilling,
Shamefully, most of these authors never appear in the curricula of our college programs, because we remain fixated with only talking about the body-as-machine. Perhaps a broader approach to understanding something as fundamental as the body could be a fruitful way to imagine a bigger, brighter, more embodied professional future?
Some recommended readings on bodies plural
- Blackman, L. (2008). The body the key concepts. Oxford; New York: Berg.
- Carter, N. (2012). Medicine, sport and the body: A historical perspective. London: Bloomsbury.
- Cregan, K. (2006). The sociology of the body mapping the abstraction of embodiment. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
- Crossley, N. (2001). The social body: Habit, identity and desire. London: Sage.
- Fox, N. J. (2012). The body. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Lupton, D. (2012). Medicine as culture: Illness, disease and the body in western society. London: Sage.
- Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple : Ontology in medical practice. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Nettleton, S. (2005). The sociology of the body. In W. C. Cockerham (Ed.), The Blackwell companion to medical sociology (pp. 43-63). London: Blackwell.
- Samson, C. (1999). Biomedicine and the body. In Health studies: A critical and cross cultural reader (pp. 3-21). Oxford: Blackwell.
- Scott, S. & Morgan, D. (2004). Body matters: Essays on the sociology of the body. London: Falmer Press.
- Shilling, C. (2012). The body and social theory. Sage.
- Turner, B. S. (1984). The body and society. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
- Turner, B. S. (2008). The body and society: Explorations in social theory. London: Sage.
- Williams, S. J. (2003). Medicine and the body. London: Sage.