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Living Across and Through Skins

Transactional Bodies, Pragmatism, and Feminism

Shannon Sullivan

Publication Year: 2001

Explores the dynamic relationship between bodies and the world around them.

What if we lived across and through our skins as much as we do within them? According to Shannon Sullivan, the notion of bodies in transaction with their social, political, cultural, and physical surroundings is not new. Early in the 20th century, John Dewey elaborated human existence as a set of patterns of behavior or actions shaped by the environment. Underscoring the continued relevance of his thought, Sullivan brings Dewey into conversation with Continental philosophers -- Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty -- and feminist philosophers -- Butler and Harding -- to expand thinking about the body. Emphasizing topics such as the role of habit, the discursivity of bodies, communication and meaning, personal and cultural structures of gender, the improvement of bodily experience, and understandings of truth and objectivity, Living Across and Through Skins acknowledges the importance of the body's experience without placing it in opposition to psychological, cultural, and social aspects of human life. By focusing on what bodies do, rather than what they are, Sullivan prompts a closer look at concrete, physical transactions that might be changed to improve human experiences of the world.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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Introduction: Transactional Bodies after Dewey

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pp. 1-11

This book presents an account of corporeal existence as transactional and explores some of the social, political, ethical, and epistemological implications of transactional bodies by engaging various pragmatist, feminist, genealogical, and phenomenological philosophers. I take the term "transaction" from American philosopher John Dewey...

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One: Living Across and Through Skins: Bodies in Transaction

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pp. 12-40

What does Dewey mean by transaction, particularly with respect to bodies? Central to transaction are its undercutting of the dualism of organism and environment—or, of humans in particular, self and world—and its rejection of the atomism that accompanies such a dualism. Two notions are especially important to an understanding of bodies as transactional: the related concepts of "body—mind" and organism...

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Two: Discursivity and Materiality:The Lived Experience of Transactional Bodies

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pp. 41-64

One of the legacies of Michel Foucault's genealogical work on bodies is an ongoing disagreement, often found between philosophers working out of poststructuralism and those working out of phenomenology, whether a pre- or nondiscursive body exists. To grasp what is at stake in this issue, one can examine the different accounts, which are associated with it, of the enactment of political resistance to oppressive cultural norms...

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Three: Communicating with Another:Transaction and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Corporeal Existence

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pp. 65-87

Many of the characteristics of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological account of human existence are valuable both for feminism and for philosophy at large. These characteristics include the primacy given to bodily existence; the attention paid to the nonreflective aspects of human life; the importance of situation for understanding human engagement with and in the world; the crucial role that habit plays in corporeal existence...

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Four: Reconfiguring Gender: Habit, Bodies, and Cultural Change

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pp. 88-110

Because transaction is a dynamic, ongoing process, the issue of transformation is central to the notion of transactional bodies. Transaction does not necessarily entail significant alteration of personal habits or cultural customs. It may result in monotonous change, in which the circle of transaction reinforces and strengthens, rather than undercuts, habit and custom. While transaction thus offers no guarantees regarding change...

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Five: Transactional Somaesthetics: Nietzsche, Women, and the Transformation of Bodily Experience

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pp. 111-132

Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the first Western philosophers to make the body central to his work in a positive way. He even went so far as to suggest that the entirety of philosophy has been "an interpretation of the body and a misunderstanding of the body."2 For Nietzsche, the self is corporeal, and thus the self-overcoming of humanity...

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Six: Transactional Knowing:Toward a Pragmatist-Feminist Standpoint Theory

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pp. 133-156

As Nietzsche once claimed, "[t]he unconscious disguise of physiological needs under the cloa[k] of the objective . . . goes to frightening lengths" in philosophy.1 Because of human corporeality, the objectivist claim that objectivity is attained when humans know the world as impartial, neutral observers is extremely problematic. Contra objectivism, humans cannot see...

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Conclusion: Transaction and the Dynamic Distinctiveness of Races

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pp. 157-170

To change that which is "outside" a body is to change that body as well, which is why Dewey writes "[o]ne might as well study an organism in complete detachment from its environment as try to study an electric clock on the wall in disregard of the wire leading to it."1 Just as an electric clock cannot tell time if electricity does not flow into it, an organism cannot function...


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pp. 171-192


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pp. 193-200


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pp. 201-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109118
E-ISBN-10: 0253109116
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253338532

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2001