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"How to Make the Body," by Dr. Thomas O. Haakenson, California College of the Arts

March 28, 2016
05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Welles-Brown Room, Rush Rhees Library

The body. Dirty and smelly. Protruding and porous. Filthy and frustrating. And beyond human.

Enlightenment ideas and ideals of “the human” continue to define and delimit what a body is in the 21st century. Developments now centuries old continue to suggest, even today, that the human body be viewed as a surface for representation or a site of regulation, especially in relation to social identity. The body is also the object of continued and constant scientific investigation, especially in relation to the notion of “objectivity” and illness, of health and wellness. The proliferation of disciplines—pathology, biology, neurophysiology, and beyond—continues to situate the human body in this fashion, as the object of optics and an object for science.

Clearly the Western persistence of dualist notions of the body and mind, and scholarly efforts to rethink self-determination in relation to identity categories, have failed to inaugurate fast enough new social, political, and intellectual frameworks for understanding “the body” differently. Efforts to dematerialize the body, to rethink the body in terms of its affects rather than its materiality, promise a way out of the limited Western Enlightenment concept of “the body” as a “human” body, of a body that is beyond its physical presence in our limited concepts of time and space.

“How to Make the Body” focuses on unimaginable yet real case studies—the plastinated bodies of Gunter van Hagens, the out-of-place bodies of refugees in Europe, the private body of the German citizen in the age of the Internet—to read “the body” in light of affect, of the 21st-century effort to make “the body” beyond the human.

More information on Prof. Haakenson is available at:

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