The Great Synthesis.

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 5 May 1996 08:41:44 +0900

Dear Colleagues,

The "Great Synthesis" thread seems to be unraveling. Still, while doing
research on another topic, I came across the following. The quote is from
Chris Schilling, _The Body and Social Theory_, Sage 1993, p. 12.

"I shall be arguing that the body is most profitably conceptualized as an
unfinished biological and social phenomenon which is transformed, within
certain limits, as a result of its entry into, and participation in,
society. It is this biological and social quality that makes the body at
once such an obvious, and yet such an elusive phenomenon. On the one hand,
we 'all know' that the body consists of such features as flesh, muscles,
bones and blood, and contains species-specific capacities which identify us
as humans. On the other hand, though, even the most 'natural' features of
the body change over the lifetime of an individual. For example, as we get
older our faces change, our eyesight deteriorates, our bones can become
brittle, and our flesh starts to sag. The sizes, shapes and heights of
bodies vary according to the care and nutrition they receive...while the
openness of the body to social relationships and environments also
contributes to its elusiveness. Our upbringing, for example, affects our
bodies in a myriad of ways: our development as girls and boys who walk,
talk, look, argue, fight and urinate differently all depends on the
patterns of body training we receive from our parents and others...Medical
and other technical interventions into the body also highlight the
biological and social character of the body and have made it even more
difficult to grasp exactly what the body is."

To a classically trained, four-fields anthropologist, what is surprising
isn't what's being said--that's old hat. The shock is who is saying it. A
British sociologist! The times they are a'changing.

Maybe physical anthro should be in the sociology department....Hmnnnn....

John McCreery
May 5, 1996

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo