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The Body in Asia

The Body in Asia

Bryan S. Turner
Zheng Yangwen
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Body in Asia
    Book Description:

    The past few decades have seen growing interest in the study of the body. However, the increasing number of exciting and influential publications has primarily, if not exclusively, focused on the body in Western cultures. The various works produced by Asian scholars remain largely unknown to Western academic debates even though Asia is home to a host of rich body cultures and religions. The peoples of Asia have experienced colonization, decolonization, and now globalization, all of which make the 'body in Asia' a rewarding field of research. This unique volume brings together a number of scholars who work on East, Southeast and South Asia and presents original and cutting edge research on the body in various Asian cultures.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-966-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Bryan S. Turner and Zheng Yangwen
  5. Introduction: Piety, Politics and Philosophy: Asia and the Global Body
    (pp. 1-22)
    Bryan S. Turner and Zheng Yangwen

    In George Orwell’s novel relating to his experiences as a policeman in Burma during British colonial rule, the attempts of the principal character Flory to interest Elizabeth in the local culture of Kyauktada in Upper Burma always end in disaster. In the performance of thepwe, the body of the young Burmese dancer fills Elizabeth with amazement, boredom and ‘something approaching horror’ (Orwell 1989: 107). Encounters between the British and their colonial subjects, even where their intentions were honourable, were prone to disaster, partly because the unruly nature of sexual desire tends to disrupt social life. The problem of colonial...

  6. 1 The Global Body Cannot Ignore Asia
    (pp. 23-40)
    Susan Brownell

    Is there an Asian phenomenology of the body? There are many inevitable universal processes of the body, such as ageing and illness, which call into question the degree to which the body really is ‘culturally constructed’, i.e., variable across cultures.

    The study of the body has been dominated by Western scholars studying Western bodies, which has necessarily limited the development of theoretical frameworks to better understand what is universal or biological about bodily experience, what is culturally variable, and what are the implications of both sides of the equation for cross-cultural understanding. Asia is a particularly productive region for looking...

  7. Part I The Body and Religion

    • 2 Saint or Serpent? Engendering the Female Body in Medieval Japanese Buddhist Narratives
      (pp. 43-58)
      Monika Dix

      TheDōjōji engi emakiand theKegon engi emaki, two Japanese didactic Buddhist tales, present us with a dramatically compelling vision of a constructed conflict: while the Buddhist goal of enlightenment is to transcend sexuality altogether, it is female sexuality that becomes a major impediment, whereas male sexuality is the prerequisite for salvation. This chapter examines the issue of gender and metamorphosis through the analysis of the ‘demonic’ nature of the heroines in theDōjōjiand theKegon engi emaki. It explores how different representations of women, focusing particularly on the impure nature of their bodies due to their sex,...

    • 3 Creating Religious Bodies: Fasting Rituals in West Java
      (pp. 59-74)
      Jörgen Hellman

      The intention of this chapter is to explore how bodies are created and honed through religious practice. Specific attention is paid to fasting rituals that aim to educate the individual to take control over impulses and needs in order to create space in the body for divine presence. The material brings forth the paradoxical (at least from a liberal, Western and humanistic perspective) willingness of humans to submit to powers and norm systems understood to be outside individual, and even human, influence. The chapter discusses how norms, exegeses and bodily practices interact to establish both empowerment and subjugation. It is...

    • 4 Formations of Public Piety: New Veiling, the Body, and the Citizen-Subject in Contemporary Indonesia
      (pp. 75-94)
      Sonja van Wichelen

      Many studies on practices, representations, and meanings of veiling concentrate on the problem of women’s agency in relation to their body and their self. While some present the phenomenon of veiling as ‘accommodating resistance’ (MacLeod 1991;1992), others point out how veiling enhances a feeling of piety important in the modern and political configuration of female Muslimness (Abu-Lughod 1995; Göle 1996). Research has also indicated thatMuslim women need not to be either passive or resisting: while some ‘bargain’ with Islamic patriarchy (Kandiyoti 1988), others identify with ‘revivalist ideals of motherhood, male authority, and the imagines of the body politic’ (Ong 1990:...

  8. Part II The Body and Culture

    • 5 Westernized Body or Japanized Western Body: The Desirable Female Body in Contemporary Japanese Women’s Magazines
      (pp. 97-112)
      Junko Ishiguro

      Japanese popular culture manifested in magazines, popular music and films, whilst developing its originality and uniqueness, has been influenced by Western popular culture especially since the defeat of Japan in the Second World War in 1945 (see, for example, Cope 2007; Martinez 1998; Morton 2003; Richie 2005; Schilling1997). Women’s magazines have similarly been very aware of Western fashion, styles and images of women whilst forming their original and distinctive style (Moeran 1995; Rosenberger 1995; Skov and Moeran 1995a). One feature of the post-war visual representation of women in magazines for young people is that it has developed in the process...

    • 6 Fatness and Well-Being: Bodies and the Generation Gap in Contemporary China
      (pp. 113-126)
      Anna Lora-Wainwright

      My first encounter with perceptions of fatness in rural China was very personal. I was baffled and perhaps even slightly upset to be told, upon my arrival in the village selected for my fieldwork in 2004, that I was ‘very fat’. With a height of 167 cm and a weight of 60 kg I had until then happily accepted the biomedical ideology which defines me as ‘normal’. As the months went by, I had occasion to realize that local parameters to assess fatness were somewhat different from my own. Being fat did not mean being massively overweight, it meant being...

  9. Part III The Body and the State

    • 7 Seki Jūrōji and the Japanese Body: Martial Arts, Kokutai, and Citizen–State Relations in Meiji Japan
      (pp. 129-146)
      Denis Gainty

      Kokutai– literally ‘national body,’ but variously translated as ‘national polity,’ ‘national essence,’ or ‘national community’ – is generally understood to be a central ideological principle of the modern (1868–1945) Japanese state. Often invoked alongside the ‘emperor system’(tennōsei)and mytho-historical notions ofbushidō,or the ‘way of the warrior,’kokutaiis understood to have been a fluid complex of ideas employed by the state in an effort to guide the behaviour and thoughts of the Japanese populace. In sources from government proclamations in early years of the Meiji period (1868–1912) to legal codes and government publications in the militaristic...

    • 8 The Sacred and the Sanitary: The Colonial ‘Medicalization’ of the Filipino Body
      (pp. 147-164)
      Julius Bautista and Ma. Mercedes Planta

      Over the course of Philippine history, the spiritual and physical state of Filipino bodies influenced the interaction between colonial subjects and the authorities who ruled over them. Both the American and Spanish regimes imposed political, economic and social changes that encouraged a revision of people’s ideas about their own corporeality. These revisions were enacted through highly regulated and regimented prescriptions and proscriptions relating to both spiritual and physical demeanour. The task of this paper is to trace the scope of these imposed normatives of conduct, and to determine how they manifested the broader ethics and agendas of the colonial regimes...

    • 9 State and Religious Contestations over the Body: Hook Swinging and the Production of New Human Subjects
      (pp. 165-182)
      Santhosh Raghavan Nair

      Academic discussions broadly analyze the human body not as an autonomous entity of the subject, instead they examine how everyday existence and manifestations of the body in its myriad forms are the products of much deeper and broader social processes and cultural meanings. The everyday existence of the human body across cultures has also raised enormous interest among scholars on the question of inflicting violence or pain on the body. The practice of inflicting pain on the human body, through a number of torturous practices at various social settings, has been studied from numerous angles. Veena Das (1995) observes that...

    • 10 Women’s Revolution Embodied in Mao Zedong Era Ballet
      (pp. 183-202)
      Zheng Yangwen

      The Age of Extremes(Hobsbawm 1994) played out in China but it more importantly played out on Chinese women. As the country was transformed from an empire to a communist state, China evolved from a culture that emphasized feminine beauty in the shape of the ‘three-inch golden lily’ (bound feet) to an era where they wore gender-neutral, male to be more precise, clothes. The human body has been the site of ‘national, global and democratic processes’ as Bryan Turner (2006b) has pointed out. This could not have been more obvious for Chinese woman as their bodies became the battleground of...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 203-206)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-224)
  12. Index
    (pp. 225-230)