- Corporeal ConsumptionMateriality, Agency, and Resistance in Body/World Encounters
This special section explores the cultural politics of acts of consumption and production performed by human and nonhuman bodies. Drawn from anthropology, history, and geography, and with diverse empirical focuses, the three articles all highlight what we term corporeal consumption: how bodies are both consumed by and also consumers of the worlds around them. Taking these processes of consumption as both metaphorical and visceral, the articles extend and productively reverse previous discussions of how bodies are made and unmade. They show that, just as bodies are inflected and shaped by states and discourses, markets and environments, they also ingest these in ways that speak of resistance and resilience, affect and agency. Attending to corporeal consumption, thus, casts light on how these embodied processes reorder or disrupt those worlds.
The articles presented here, then, not only build on and extend scholarship in cultural theory but also engage with current interdisciplinary debates around new materialisms, relationalities between the human and nonhuman, the intimacies of power and agency, and corporeal politics. Exploring corporeal consumption offers a way to look beyond habitual ways of thinking about and through bodies to forge new understandings of and ethical possibilities for the boundaries, limits, and capacities of the human. As such, our attention to corporeal consumption in this special section is profoundly political; it forges a transdisciplinary way of attending to embodied and [End Page 340] sensate processes that might otherwise be ignored by—or are actively absented from—cultural and political discourses and social hierarchies while also showing the potentialities and politics to intimate and embodied acts of resistance. The collected articles draw into view the ethical and political stakes of how bodies resist—or, perhaps, refuse to swallow—the pro-cesses that seek to categorize or contain them and, in so doing, disrupt or reorder the worlds around them.
Underpinning this special section's exploration of corporeal consumption is recent work that has theorized the body/world encounters set in motion by the act of eating (e.g., Abbots 2017; Abbots and Lavis 2013; Lavis 2015a, 2015b; Mol 2008; Probyn 2000). Recent scholarship on eating has argued for recognition of how, "in the act of placing food in the mouth, landscapes, people, objects and imaginings not only juxtapose with and fold into one another, but are also reconstituted and reordered" (Abbots and Lavis 2013: 5). Eating bodies are at once subject to and entangled in a complex nexus of social, cultural, and political relations while also being active in their production, mediation, and configuration. In scoping the tangled threads of these connections, this work has highlighted the bidirectional flow of engagement between bodies and their environments while also demonstrating that neither is static or presocial. In so doing, it has revealed the "corporeal politics" of eating (Probyn 2000: 14).
That consumption practices which seem personal and individual are, instead, profoundly political and public (see Lavis, Abbots, and Attala 2015) is also core to scholarship on viscerality, defined as "the sensations, moods and ways of being that emerge from our sensory engagement with the material and discursive environments in which we live" (Longhurst, Johnston, and Ho 2009: 334). Developed particularly in the work of Jessica Hayes-Conroy and Allison Hayes-Conroy (e.g., Hayes-Conroy and Martin 2010; Hayes-Conroy and Hayes-Conroy 2010), this focus seeks to engage with "contextualized and interactive versions of the self and other" (Hayes-Conroy and Hayes-Conroy 2010: 1273) and establish the centrality of the material body to an exploration of political processes and interventions. This has extended previous understandings of how bodies and persons are socially shaped through their interactions with everyday material objects (Falk 1994; Featherstone 1991). It has opened up a further way to interrogate relationships between bodily materialities and the structures in which they are embedded by elucidating the intersections of the sensate and the political.
Against this background of eating and viscerality, the articles in this section unfurl from and develop the premise that it is not only food that is taken into bodies, absorbed, digested, and assimilated. Instead, bodies consume, produce, and are distributed...