Cultures of Embodiment - SOCI6760

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Combined Autumn and Spring Terms 6 30 (15) Robin Rose Breetveld checkmark-circle


Images of 'trim, taut and terrific' bodies surround us in contemporary consumer culture. They look down on us from billboards, are increasingly central to advertisers' attempts to sell us clothes, cosmetics, cars, and other products, and pervade reality television programmes based on diet, exercise and 'extreme’ makeovers. These trends have occurred at the same time that science, technology, genetic engineering and medicine have achieved unprecedented levels of control over the body: there are now few parts of the body which cannot be remoulded, supplemented or transplanted in one way or another. In this course we explore how culture represents and shapes bodies, and also examine how embodied subjects are themselves able to act on and influence the culture in which they live. We will seek to understand the relationship between the body and self-identity, embodiment and inequalities, and will explore various theories of the body. In doing this we range far and wide by looking at such issues as work, music, sex/gender, cyberbodies, Makeover TV, film, transgender, sport, music, work and sleep. Embodiment is the enduring theme of this course, though, and we will explore its many dimensions via a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, and by asking and addressing a range of questions such as ‘How and why has the body become increasingly commodified?’, ‘Why has the body become increasingly central to so many people’s sense of self-identity?’, ‘If we live in a culture that has been able to intervene in the sizes, shapes and contents of the body like never before, have people have become less sure about what is ‘natural’ about the body, and about how we should care for and treat our bodily selves?’


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 44
Private study hours: 246
Total study hours: 300


BA Cultural Studies and Media and associated courses
BA Sociology and associated courses
Available as an 'elective' module

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Coursework - Essay 1 (2250 words) - 25%
Coursework - Essay 2 (2250 words) - 25%
Examination (2 hours) - 50%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Fraser M & Greco M (eds) (2005) The Body. A Reader. London: Routledge
Shilling C (3rd edn. 2012) The Body and Social Theory. London: Sage
Shilling C (2005) The Body in Culture, Technology and Society. London: Sage
Shilling C (2008) Changing Bodies. London:Sage
Shiling, C. (2016) The Body. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
Smith, J. (2017) Embodiment. A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Thomas H & Ahmed J (eds) (2004) Cultural Bodies. Oxford: Blackwell

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of how culture shapes human bodies and embodied relationships.
8.2 Articulate how the body constitutes a basis for the creation, reproduction and transformation of culture.
8.3 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the relationship between the body and self-identity in the contemporary era.
8.4 Apply a systematic understanding of some of the major theories which have explored the relationship between embodiment and society.
8.5 Demonstrate a coherent and detailed understanding of how the culturally patterned body is implicated in the construction, maintenance, and reproduction of social inequalities.
8.6 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the area of 'body pedagogics'.
8.7 Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relationship between the culturally patterned body and different modes of experience.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
9.1 Understand and critically evaluate the main dimensions of theoretical approaches towards the subjects under investigation.
9.2 Integrate diverse sources of cultural analysis and information and produce distinctive, coherent and detailed knowledge.
9.3 Critically analyse case studies with the assistance of interdisciplinary resources.
9.4 Think clearly about reading material including scholarly and primary resources and discussion and critically evaluate and express arguments informed by the literature in a variety of settings to different audiences.
9.5 Undertake independent accurate investigation and description, and develop logical arguments based on a critical understanding of the literature and express these arguments effectively to a variety of audiences and/or using a variety of methods.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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