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bodythe physical form of the individual human being, which, however, is equally a social product, given that human biological capacities are in many areas underdetermined by biology and profoundly shaped by cultural definitions and social influences.
Although not always fully explicit, numerous topic areas in sociology (e.g. the SOCIOLOGY OF HEALTH AND MEDICINE, or the positionings of the body in face-to-face interaction as studied by GOFFMAN) raise central questions about the body, and the basic characteristics of the body (e.g. its vulnerability and finitude, and constraints on its mobility in time and space) possess crucial social implications. Examples of the latter are that every human society must preserve the basic material conditions for the health and welfare and reproduction of human bodies. The vulnerability of the body also means that the threat of VIOLENCE is a decisive factor in both the maintenance and the limitation of political POWER.
Recently the sociological study of the body (see also SOCIOLOGY OF THE BODY) has become a more central point of focus in the discipline, as seen from the attention given to the work of FOUCAULT or ELIAS on historical changes in the regulation of the body, and the study of the body as a medium of communication (see also BODY LANGUAGE) through gestures, posture, cosmetics and clothing. Feminist theory in particular has drawn attention to the stereotypical use of female bodies, and parts of bodies, in ADVERTISING and pornography, and also to the differences between the masculine and feminine body ideals in Western culture (see also FOOD. ANOREXIA NERVOSA).
In classical PHILOSOPHY, a central issue has been the mind-body relation (see DESCARTES, DUALISM), which finds echoes in many modern sociological debates (e.g. conceptions of FREE WILL). However, as MERLEAU-PONTY, among others, points out, any action always involves ‘bodily being’, so an outright dualism of mind and body is not appropriate. Finally (whatever plausibility may exist for modern conceptions of a DECENTRED SELF), as the physical site of the ‘person’, the boundaries and continuity of the individual body are significant in any identification, identity and continuities of the social SELF, although far from being their only basis.
In recent decades, attention to the constitution of the body has been particularly intense, influenced by FEMINISM as well as FOUCAULT (see Featherstone and Turner, 1996, in the founding issue of the journal Body & Society). See also POST-FEMINISM, BUTLER.
What does it mean when you dream about a body?
Dreams that somehow emphasize the physical body may represent something about one’s state of health. Because our personal identities are so tied up with the body, the body can also appear as a more general symbol of the self (e.g., a naked body may indicate that we feel exposed). Dead bodies are an entirely different matter. (See also Death).