Introduction: Body Politics



In a recent exhibition, ‘Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators 1930–1945’, at the Hayward Gallery,1 contrasting images of the body forcefully brought home to me the significance of the social, historical and cultural construction of the body and the meanings attached to its representation. Two statues in particular caught my eye through their different readings of the body. The first was an idealised male form, nude, drawn from mythology — Prometheus returning with fire from the gods. With bulging muscles, the sinews marked out in detail, and taut stomach, he carried a torch held high above his head, his bearing suggesting dynamism, one moment of which had been captured in the image. The other statue was a male form clothed from the waist downwards, a miner, his arms and chest obviously strong and developed, but the muscle tone was not emphasised as in the first statue. He carried a drill connected to a hose, which was draped over one of his shoulders. His was a stationary posture, of stillness after exhaustingly physical exertion.


Female Body Scientific Revolution Rational Organisation Body Politics Medical Discourse 
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© Karen Dale 2001

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