restricted access Editor’s Introduction
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Arien Mack Editor’s Introduction STRUGGLES OVER CONTROL OF OUR BODIES, WHICH HAVE A LONG histoiy, are as fierce now as they ever have been. This is clearly evident in the heated debates over gay marriage, stem cell research, and the legitimacy of abortions. It is evident in the Islamic world, where the law treats m en and wom en differently. It is evident in India, where the Dalit—“untouchables”—are discrim inated against. O ther contested questions include how we are cared for w hen ill; w hat is an illness and w hat is not; how we die; w hat rights the state has over our bodies; w hat the relationship is betw een the individual body and the body politic; and in w hat ways our understanding of gender affects public policy across the globe. A forum in which these issues are discussed is clearly a high priority. W hile m any forces are at play in the struggles surrounding poli­ cies affecting our bodies, certainly religious institutions, markets, and the sciences are am ong the principal ones. In fact, the body is a battle­ field in which they are the central—though far from the only—actors com peting for control. The signs of this struggle are now here m ore evident than in the debates about policies concerning the state’s regu­ lation and protection of the body, and the definition of w hat constitutes the “norm al”body. (For example, is a pregnant body a norm al body? Is a black body a norm al one? Is a disabled body normal?) These forces clash and sometimes join together to define w hat the norm al or healthy body is and w hat rights, privileges, and obligations are associated with it—a definition that has changed over time and varies across cultures (often differing between male and female) but is always contested. The diverse and changing understandings of w hat a norm al body is lie at the heart of alm ost all disagreements over how to control and protect our bodies, E ditor’s Introduction xvii and so constitute one of the underlying them es of the papers in this volume. These forces also vie to define which behaviors are acceptable and legal and which are not, and which aspects of the body are private and therefore not subject to the control of others. They are at work in deter­ m ining the ways in which bodies m ust be protected (by, for example, outlawing certain behaviors, such as sodomy or smoking, or by m andat­ ing others, such as vaccination or circumcision) and they are at work when determ ining which bodies may be punished, tortured, or killed. In these and other ways, such forces, and others as well, attem pt to impose their ideas and norms on the rules governing our bodies. They even tiy to influence our perceptions of our own bodies and of our rights over them, as seen in the recent debate in the United States concerning who owns our genes. Moreover, because convictions about what is morally accept­ able are so salient in m atters concerning the body, questions arise about whose moral code will be enacted into public policy. The papers in this issue are based on the first set of talks given at the twenty-third Social Research conference, “The Body and the State: How the State Controls and Protects the Body,” w hich took place at the New School on Februaiy 10-12, 2011. The second and rem aining set of papers from this conference will appear in the Fall 2011 issue of the journal. The papers in these two issues together explore how the vari­ ous stakeholders—w hether religious groups, pharm aceutical com pa­ nies, media m arkets, or political action groups—attem pt to influence policies so that they are consistent w ith their own views. In short, the papers focus on the body as a hum an rights arena in which m any forces struggle for control, and explore the range and effectiveness of those forces as they w ork tow ard expression in public policy and political actions in the...


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