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From the Publisher"The author's comprehensive survey brings home to the reader that what is acceptable and even prized in one culture may be abhorred in another, and that perceptions about beauty can change over time within the same society."
"A distinctive and fascinating volume on the history and cultural meaning of the body and its disparate parts. It examines perceptions of the human corpus in world cultures and history and investigates the practices, mores, taboos, and rituals that affect and transform the body in those cultures. Written by sociologists, historians, anthropologists, and other scholars, the encyclopedia covers a wide range of cultures and historical time periods, giving a thorough overview of the place of the body in world history and societies… The clear writing will accommodate general readers. The entries themselves are evenhanded and steer clear of cultural judgments and bias.' "
"[A] detailed chronology traces body image, adornment, and alteration from circa 2400 BCE to the present. Entries range in length from a few pages for briefer topics (e.g. Chin) to more than 30 pages for more complex (Face). When necessary, larger articles are divided into subsections… An intriguing and considered look at the body as canvas, locus of self-expression, or vehicle for societal expectation and repression, this set has a place in any college or university library."
"…there is some overlap between this guide and the recent Encyclopedia of Body Adornment (Greenwood, 2007), although the latter devotes more space to hairstyles, piercing, tattoos and transgender issues. Users, however, are likely to find their differing approaches complementary, as both are useful for exploring the astounding variety of cultural practices surrounding the human body."
Lawrence Looks at Books
"This encyclopedia's topics, on various social aspects of the human body, are taken from ancient history (eunuchs, earlobe stretching) and today's headlines (cosmetic dentistry, liposuction). Pitts-Taylor ( Queens College, CUNY) previously wrote Surgery Junkies (CH, Apr'08, 45-4460) and In the Flesh (2003). Here she contributes an informative 11-page introduction that precedes 43 alphabetically arranged sections devoted to body parts, e.g., breasts, face, fat, lips, and vagina. The longest part (44 pages about the skin) includes nine articles on topics ranging from body piercing and tattoos to stretch marks… Included are a thorough keyword index, bibliography, chronology, and some illuminating black-and-white illustrations."
"Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, sociology, political history, philosophy, art history, literary studies, and medicine, this comprehensive encyclopedia seeks to discuss the human body in relation to medical traditions, popular culture, and society in general. The multipage essays on individual body parts deliver on these goals. …This well-written, often advanced work will be highly useful in libraries with strong sociology or popular-culture collections."
School Library Journal
"I found the organization of the Encyclopedia useful and rather entertaining. . . . I enjoyed browsing these volumes enormously; the Encyclopedia is laid out in a way that enables the reader to browse casually, or use it as the base for further research into the cultural or social issues examined. Psychology, sociology, history, and humanities collections would find this useful, as indeed would those studying medicine from a cultural perspective."