Re: Corporeal whatever

Center for Biology Education (ajpetto@MACC.WISC.EDU)
Tue, 18 Jan 1994 09:54:41 -0600

Carrier writes:

>Just to be picky ...
> 1. Corporeal enculturation is a bit of a mouthful, especially given that
>the museum exhibit is intended (if memory serves) for school-age children. So
>long as the intended audience is not professional anthropologists, the
>pedagogic element of the exhibit ought to be considered.

I concur. When working with cross-cultural materials with middle-school
aged kids, being able to point out that body decorations and "enhancements"
are universal in simple terms was very important. Of course, this was back
in the days when only countercultural or marginalized types had tatoos and
pierced body parts other than ears (generally restricted to females). But,
the ability to describe and categorize this behavior for them in ways that
could be used to examine their own body decoration practices (in fairly
simple phrases) was extremely valuable. There were little 13-year-old
light bulbs going on all over the classroom.

So, as a pedagogical matter, I cast my vote with a term that doesn't denote
any sort of mental deficiency or imbalance -- as we are likely to interpret
"mutilation". "Deformation" is a little better. But again, what we say to
the general public or children in the classroom, media, museum, etc. does
not need to be the same as what we say to other anthropologists in the

Anj Petto

Andrew J. Petto, PhD
Associate Director
Center for Biology Education
660 WARF
University of Wisconsin

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