Body and Sexuality: Beyond Cultural Binaries
Since ancient times, the tortuously discursive category of “body” continues to remain elusive despite numerous sophisticated accounts to represent it. Twentieth century thought, with its corporeal turn from 1980s, has been a pivotal ground for rethinking the problematics of body, and has given rise to a proliferation of body-centred discourses within humanities, social sciences, and medical science. Central to this discipline is the diversity of ways in which sexuality is expressed in relation to body. If sex is conceived in biological terms, sexuality is a “complex of reactions, interpretations, definitions, prohibitions, and norms that is created and maintained by a given culture in response to the fact of the two biological sexes” (Henderson). Thus, against universal, ahistorical, and noncultural conceptions of sex, the accounts of sexuality remain invariably cultural, historical, and non-essentialist. As a cultural and historical category, sexuality lends itself as a conceptual tool that characterizes our orientations and desires and, in turn, shapes our identities along with the ways in which we configure subjectivity in this world. Given its centrality in our historical moment, it is pertinent to explore questions of human sexuality being genetically determined or socially constructed.
While different cultures in history have organised expressions of sexuality into particular categories, the heteronormative paradigms of sexuality oversimplify the lived experiences of body and overlook the pitfalls of essentialism, biologism and naturalism. Adding to these complications is the contemporary medical discourse’s enthusiastic undertakings to configure sexual identity by using these very paradigms. So, the questions germane to this area are: How does the focus on material body and its sexuality makes it a site of socio-political inscription? How does the “pharmaco-pornographic regimes,” to use Paul Preciado’s phrase, reformulate the bodily identity in twenty-first century? How does politics of difference negotiate and overcome the so-called discursivation of gendered bodies?
The ground for such interrogations is a displacement of the category of “sex” by “gender” that evokes a formidable critique of sex/gender distinctions. Any fixed distinction—nature and nurture, mind and body, inside and outside—paradoxically urges cultural practices to “encourage or engender neutralization of sexual difference and sexual politics,” thereby focusing on discursive bodies and social bodies (Moira Gatens). Such ‘discursivation of bodies,’ which gets resisted at many levels, brings a renewed attention to the experiences of the lived body and the politics of difference. Additionally, it questions cultural studies’ focus on representations of body at the expense of its existential-material dimensions. Such debates converge, particularly in the interdisciplinary enquiries of trans studies, to the narratives of being born into a wrong body and the resulting surgical and hormonal intervention that give rise to a wholly different imaginary of body. Desiring to be absolved of all fixed binaries, human body seeks to break free of the dichotomous and heteronormative paradigms to pitch for a diversity in understanding corporeal being through the pivotal frame of LGBTIQ+.
In addition to going beyond the mentioned areas of exploration, LLIDS invites scholars to engage with the perspectives teased out above and below:
- Body Studies and gendered bodies
- Problematic of sex and gender distinction
- Non-western perspectives on sexuality
- Sports and the imaginary of sexual body
- Gender and feminist economics
- Gender and human rights
- Sexuality and the literary aesthetics
- Sexuality and hysteria
- Limits of scientific discourse on sexuality
- Embodiment and corporeal representation
- Virtual bodies and virtual sexuality
- Subjectivity and sexuality
- Intersex and problems of classification
- Posthuman body and sexuality
- Desire and sexuality
- Sexuality and LGBTIQ+
- Sexual fluidity and trans people