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Table of contents

No. 6 - Volume 3 (2015)
Becoming with Things
Edited by Paula-Irene Villa / Cornelia Schadler

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Paula-Irene Villa / Cornelia Schadler: Becoming with Things – Bodies, Objects, Practices
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Bodies and things are part of the world’s becoming. In recent decades a variety of paradigms, such as (historical) anthropology, phenomenology, practice theory, post-humanism, actor-network-theory or new materialism have engaged with the critical examination of the boundaries between bodies and things. Our issue of ‘Body Politics’ aims to contribute to this debate on the joint becoming and co-construction of bodies and things. This issue negotiates the entanglement of bodies and things through the practices of fitting clothes to bodies, engaging with mountains in interviews, dancing and immobi-lized body-parts, moving means of transportation and carefully parked bodies, hearing enhancement, the history of bodies in museums and war invalid bodies. The contributions suggest that bodies and things cannot be defined on their own. The demarcation of mate-riality as body or thing is not predefined, but happens within practices. Further, bodies and things cannot be treated as separate entities, but evolve into various and ever-changing constellations of body-things.


Melanie Haller: Mode Macht Körper – Wie sich Mode-Körper-Hybride materialisieren
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The key issue of this article is to show the interweaving of the materiality of fashion with concepts of bodies. From the point of view of a body sociologist and a tailor my first thesis reveal how body concepts are materialized in fashion/clothing, beyond wearing them. The materiality of fashion is produced by the measuring of bodies, the translation into cloth sizes and the implementation in patterns and fashioning of fash-ion/clothing. Hereby body concepts are implemented in fashion/clothing. This imple-mented body concepts in fashion/clothing encounter the fashion/clothing wearing bodies. So in reference to Barads concept of an agential realism my second thesis wants to imply how fashion-body-hybrids emerges.

Grit Höppner: „Becoming with things“ in Interviews: Materialisierungsprozesse von Wiener Rentner_innen am Beispiel von Bergerzählungen
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In this article, I investigate from an agential realist perspective the way remembered things materialize through human bodies in interviews. Using the case of Viennese elderly people, I show how their non-verbal reference to a mountain caused a temporal materialization of its attributed features through their bodies and, as a result, transformed the way in which they embody age, illness, gender and health. Mountains had an active function during these processes because they initiated interviewees’ non-verbal reference. In analyzing processes of materialization, the article shows the kind of contribution that an agential realist account can make to sociological interview research. It particularly highlights the need to rethink both the constitution of human bodies and the popular procedure of assuming a pre-existing distinction and an asymmetry between humans and non-humans in empirical analyses of qualitative social research.

Sabine Kienitz: Schöner gehen? Zur technischen Optimierung des kriegsinvaliden Körpers im frühen 20. Jahrhundert
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Reconfigurating and enhancing the human body with a prosthesis was one of the earliest cyborg-technologies, which then was improved and standardized after experiencing the impacts of World War I: In Germany officially about 70.000 servicemen suffered from physical destructions of their bodies and had to undergo surgery and especially amputation of the upper and lower limbs. Analyzing the relationship and dependencies between human bodies and these technical artefacts, most of the historical or STS-research projects point out the material part of this configuration. On the contrary the following text argues from the perspective of actor-network-theory to open again this blackbox prosthesis. Thus it will ask for networks and processes of translation, by which the prosthesis as a reconstructing and new technical part of the body and also the stump attains to achieve the status of an actor itself.

Sophie Merit Müller: Ballettkörper werden. Materielle Involvierungen, Verflechtungen und Differenzierungen im Üben klassischer Tanztechnik
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Recently, sociological theory has criticized the concept of the ‘rational actor’ from two sides: Practice theory has emphasized the cultural shaping of bodies, Actor Network Theory has promoted artifacts as non-human, but equal actants. This paper argues for exploring ‘bodies’ and ‘things’ in one integrative perspective. It focuses on the becoming of ballet bodies – asking how other objects are involved here and how they are practically brought into being together with the singular, highly skilled ballet-bodies. The author argues that such processes of ‘becoming together’ depends on particular practical involvements, as well as on entanglements transversal to, and differentiations of everyday units like ‘the body’. In ballet class, wooden bars, music and big mirrors play ‘body parts’ as substitute limbs, as temporal and energetic regulator and media. The mirror, moreover, is central to how inhabited bodies are dissected into a shapeable object and a shaping artisan who forms a new unit with the teacher as a manufacturing team. Thus, body parts situationally become things here. The paper shows how an open, symmetrical account of social materiality can be achieved by empirically unfolding both sides of the binary fixation human/non-human.

Larissa Schindler: The Flying Body: Wie Körper und Dinge sich gegenseitig und eine Flugreise hervorbringen
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Bodies and things are central dimensions of the “materiality of the so-cial“, yet they are mostly investigated in different lines of discourse. How can we study these dimensions in one perspective? How do bodies and things 'collaborate' in social pro-cesses and ‘become’ together? This contribution tackles these questions based on an em-pirical study on air travel. In the course of a journey by airplane, bodies and things become relevant in different forms. They have to be gathered and assembled to a mobile formation at the day of travel. At the airport, this formation is decomposed again and subjected to different inspections. In the aircraft, bodies are held still by being 'parked' in the seats like things. Especially when bodies behave recalcitrantly, it becomes evident that this is a de-manding accomplishment. 'Flying bodies' are fluid formations of bodies and things that are brought into being situational and change repeatedly in the course of the travel.

Markus Spöhrer: „Wie ich zum Cyborg wurde“. Das Cochlea Implantat und die Übersetzungen des transhumanen Körpers
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This article deals with recent developments in the discourse on Cochlear Implants (CI) and the appropriation of the implant as an enhancing cyborg device. The article will first consider developments in medicinal, technological and cultural histories of the CI: While medical experts originally designed the CI to “cure” deafness, some members of Deaf communities do not agree. In their perspective, deafness is not a “disability,” but a certain cultural lifestyle. Hence, forcing people to “hear” with a CI needed to be considered a threat to the culture of sign language. Apart from these discussions, self-appointed “cyborgs” such as German Enno Park consider the CI not only a way of becoming “normal,” but instead claim that the CI bears the potential of raising the human body and its sensory capacities to a posthuman level.

Annika Wellmann-Stühring: Museumsdinge und Körpergeschichte. Die Prothesen des Lehrers R.
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This article considers how museum objects can be used as sources to re-construct histories of the body. By focusing on two prostheses that had been used by a West German war invalid and are now kept in the collections of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, it depicts how materiality and information on individual objects stimulate inves-tigation and add to historicizing the body. It reconstructs how these prostheses were linked to ideas about the body, how they formed the body and which techniques of the body they prompted.

Open Section

Martin Radermacher: Fitness, Gender, Körper. Materialisierungen evangelikaler Körpertheologien in den USA
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Since the late 1950s, there is a body-related discourse in the United States which aims for a fit and healthy body – based on biblical principles. In tune with popular societal body and fitness ideals, this discourse of “devotional fitness” has gained popularity among evangelicals in the last decades. This field is suited to investigate how evangelical body theologies are materialized. In this article, I will look at this question, introducing both historical backgrounds and contemporary examples, and taking a critical point of view with regard to the construction of gender ideals and gender roles. Devotional fitness programs situate popular ideals of physical perfection within a conservative evangelical worldview which understands the husband as head and bread-winner of the family, and the wife as potentially weak against the temptations of food. The article thus focuses on central motifs of North American body history in the 20th and 21st century.