Care and Body Practices in Modern Societies
This course brings together two emerging sociological literatures: the sociology of the body, and the sociology of care. The first part of the course focuses on body practices. The second part is devoted to the study of care as a social practice.
The sociology of the body is a relatively new area of sociological studies. It explores a number of issues related to the body politics and embodiment in contemporary culture including social regulation of the body and body practices, the body as a site for political struggle and inequality, social knowledge on the body, its biological processes and relation to particular social structures mediated by scientific knowledge and mass culture. At the same time the body, as a sum of biological processes, is an object of constant transformation via culture during socialization and the lifecourse.
The sociology of care, in turn, has one of its starting points the recognition that from cradle to grave, human beings depend on the care of others. Accordingly, human societies spend a significant amount of their resources in the provision of care. This is true also of modern societies, where care needs and demands have given rise to a wide range of institutions: from kindergartens to hospitals, and from social work to pension schemes. Nevertheless, neither care provision nor access to care are uniformly distributed within and across societies: the provision of and access to care is often organised alongside gender and class divisions. At the same time, care is always an embodied practice. The body is the first human instrument of care for others; and it is also an object of care.
The aim of this course is to provide students with tools to understand, and undertake sociological research into, the multiple manifestations of care in relation to bodily practices as means and mediums of care for others and for ourselves. The course will offer students the opportunity to deploy analytical categories from the sociology of care and the body in order to deepen their understanding of phenomena such as welfare, healthcare, sustainability in different regions of the world, the body politics, gender politics, and social inequality.