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The Sociology of the Body

Although classical sociology was not always oblivious or indifferent to the embodied dimensions of social relations, contemporary sociology has developed new perspectives and frameworks for understanding the body as a social and cultural construct and fundamental element in material and symbolic processes of power and conviviality. What do contemporary sociological approaches contribute to our understanding of corporeality and embodiment? What kind of changes does this represent in relation to classical perspectives? How do different theoretical approaches connect to contemporary interests and empirical research? The present article attempts to answer these questions, looking at the development and diversification of sociological approaches to the body, from Elias and Bourdieu to contemporary feminist, Foucauldian post-structuralism and queer theories. The authors highlight current research that is intersectional, international and path-breaking. They also pay particular attention to connections between the social, cultural and the political, as expressed in and through bodies, and point to the unresolved nature of the relationship between narrative, discourse and the materiality of the body.