Our relationship with our bodies explored in new book

Posted on 5th January 2018

What our bodies mean to us – in terms of self-perception, sexual identity, body modifications and political activism – is the subject of a new book edited by a University of Chester Professor.

Editor Professor Emma Rees (centre), with contributors Dr Graham Atkin and Dr Abigail Tazzyman
Editor Professor Emma Rees (centre), with contributors Dr Graham Atkin and Dr Abigail Tazzyman

Talking Bodies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Embodiment, Gender and Identity is edited by Professor Emma Rees, who is the Director of the University’s Institute of Gender Studies.

In this collection of brand new essays, leading thinkers, writers, and activists offer their responses to the simple question: “Do I have a body, or am I my body?” The book provides a timely exploration of how we live in and with our bodies, both today and historically.

The essays engage with the array of meanings that our bodies have, ranging from considerations of 19th-century discourses of bodily shame and otherness, through to arguing for a brand new corporeal vocabulary for the 21st century. Talking Bodies maps a range of cultural anxieties about the body, resulting in a compelling book that makes a vital contribution to today’s key debates about embodiment

Contributors come not only from a range of ethnic, national, and professional backgrounds, but also from different disciplines, resulting in a refreshing, intersectional mix of analyses. An excerpt of a chapter on the author Edith Wharton, by Naomi Wolf, one of the leading gender theorists of the modern age, has also appeared in the Times Literary Supplement: www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/edith-wharton-oscar-wilde/

Talking Bodies follows on from the series of biennial conferences of the same name, where scholars, practitioners, researchers and postgraduate students from a variety of disciplines including art, politics, theology, history of science, literary criticism and ecofeminism, gather in Chester to discuss topics surrounding ‘the body’.

The conferences have all been hosted by Emma Rees, most recently (2017) under the umbrella of the Institute of Gender Studies at Chester. Delegates have attended from as far afield as Brazil, India and Australia, to explore the Talking Bodies theme.

Professor Emma Rees, editor of Talking Bodies, said: “Increasing numbers of people are choosing to modify their bodies, but as the essays in the book show, this is far from being a new practice: over hundreds of years, it has evolved and accrued new meanings. Talking Bodies, the book, arises from the eponymous biennial conference, which provides a unique opportunity for academics and members of the public to discuss, debate, and learn about minds and bodies – considering race, sexuality, disability, gender, and identity. The conferences create a dialogue between people from diverse backgrounds who want to talk about bodies. I am extremely proud that this has now extended to book form.”

Talking Bodies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Embodiment, Gender and Identity, edited by Professor Emma Rees, and published by Palgrave Macmillan is available at:  www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319637778

Talking Bodies, the biennial conference, will return to the University of Chester in 2019.

Talking Bodies book covers