Body and Textuality
The body is a representation of the body itself, a place where identity remains. We understand identity as gender, race, class and sexual articulation. The body, therefore, is the text that results out of the inscription and re-inscription of cultural discourses. The body is not seen as evidence but more as an interpretation, a possible way of reading, a place where debating and discussing are transformed constantly.
The Research Group, Body and Textuality (2014SGR-1316) is precisely situated in this place, because it understands the body as one way to incorporate and hold culture in contemporary society. The Group, directed by Dr. Meri Torras, was formed in the year 2005 and is linked to the Department of Hispanic Philology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
The research is done from an inter-disciplinary perspective, thanks to the different lines of research of the members of the group (Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Art, Philology, Psychology…). The work of the group is materialized through the following actions: specialized publications edited, organization of conferences and round tables, direction of several doctoral theses, especially with the Master Degree on Compared Literature: Literary and Cultural studies (UAB) and the Interuniversity Master Degree on Women Studies, gender and citizenship (iiEDG).
The body has been seen as something given, fixated, that cannot be changed (beyond its aging and death); it is a place in which sexual difference or race are inscribed, often as stigmas. If we add to that the fact that traditional Western thought still hides the body, represses it or even erases it, considering it a useless (and decadent) wrap of the immortal soul, it is easier to understand why it has been gagged, hidden, and pre-fixed on the cultural representations. Paradoxically, the breakup of this sense of shame and the following (and logical) detonation that made possible the visibility of the body has ended up, in several aspects, on an equally strong and self-imposed control. The obsession on being thin; the incorporation of gymnastic and athletic activities with all its forms (body building, aerobics, fitness); the aesthetic surgery, and the so called “fashion dictatorship”… are just some of the examples that nowadays affect men and women, if these two categories were the ones that could fill up all the possibilities of the body.
How do we relate to the body? What makes it possible to say anything about ourselves? What makes it possible to be silent? How does it reproduce cultural categories and, on the same reiteration, defies them proposing new settings? How can it become an instrument of individual and collective claims? How do we express ourselves through the body? In conclusion, which ones are the textualities of the body and its keys of cultural reading on the contemporary Occidental society and what do they borrow, rewriting it, from this cultural tradition? Similar issues have been discussed in recent years in a sort of explicit way in different fields of thought such as postmodern Philosophy, Feminism, studies on visual culture and new technologies, or recent manifestations on comparative literature. Art, and specifically Literature, constitute areas that allow this reflection and at the same time become its carrier. The work of Body and Textuality is situated in the middle of these crossroads.
The Hypotheses of work in which we lay down our research project are the following:
a) The body has been presented to us as natural, not cultural; prefixed and immediate, not constructed or mediated; anatomic, exterior, superficial, not psychological, not interior, nor deeep; set, not changing, especially concerning gender-sex categories.
b) This consideration that does not delimitate the body is set under the label of normative discourses which act as a form of control especially rigid on determined social groups.
c) In view of the two first points, we propose the consideration of the body as something constructed, cultural, mediated, transformable, with a psychological repercussion, and socially unavoidable. The body is a sphere of re/writing cultural discourses; it produces and reproduces them.
d) The artistic texts (Literature, Painting, Cinema, Videoclip, Video Art) are the privileged fields in which problematization and rethinking the dominant models on gender, identity, and body; offering alternatives and invitating to the consumer/spectator to revise the interiorized guidelines of his/her own identity and social roles.
Only through an interdisciplinary approach, from a comparative methodology borrowed from the Cultural Studies, it is possible to acknowledge this phenomenon in a way that, if it is not complete, is at least global.