Part 3, 19 October 2020

Metaphors of the Body

Keegan Martens, PhD Candidate

Click here to download the lecture slides


The third lecture in this series will continue with the themes of Identity, Difference and Belonging by considering the idea of the body. Understandings of bodily difference are at the centre of debates around sex, gender, race and sexuality as well as health and wellbeing. In these debates the body is often framed as an object that is described biologically and then inscribed by social meanings. For example, a distinction is often drawn between sex, as a difference in the body, and gender, as a social category.

My aim in this lecture is to trouble this separation between biology and sociality by highlighting the metaphorical aspect of our descriptions of the body. In particular, I will argue the notion of a body politic (that societies are metaphorically akin to bodies) is already bridging the gap between individual bodies and the social body, but that this connection is often overlooked. Further, I will show how the consideration of metaphor is one way that we can change how we see and describe ourselves and our world.

Finally, I will consider some of the similarities and differences between the American AIDS crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to show how our ideas about the body and the body politic have changed since the 1980s.