Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body [2 volumes]

Overview

Pop culture and the media today are saturated with the focus on the aesthetics of the human body. Magazines and infotainment shows speculate whether this or that actress had breast implants or a nose job. Americans are not just focusing on celebrities but on themselves too and today have unprecedented opportunities to rework what nature gave them. One can now drop in to have cosmetic surgery at the local mall. Contemplating the superficial nature of it all grows tiresome, and pop culture vultures and students can...

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Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body (Volumes 1-2)

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Overview

Pop culture and the media today are saturated with the focus on the aesthetics of the human body. Magazines and infotainment shows speculate whether this or that actress had breast implants or a nose job. Americans are not just focusing on celebrities but on themselves too and today have unprecedented opportunities to rework what nature gave them. One can now drop in to have cosmetic surgery at the local mall. Contemplating the superficial nature of it all grows tiresome, and pop culture vultures and students can get a better fix for their fascination with the body beautiful through the cultural insight provided in this amazing set. Cultural Encyclopedia of the Body is a treasure trove of essays that explore the human body alphabetically by part, detailing practices and beliefs from the past and present and from around the world that are sometimes mind-blowing and eye-popping.

Body parts are examined through a multifaceted cultural lens. Readers will explore how the parts are understood, what they mean to disparate societies, how they are managed, treated, and transformed, and how they are depicted and represented. The entries draw from many disciplines that are concerned to some degree or another with human bodies, including anthropology archeology, sociology, religion, political history, philosophy, art history, literary studies, and medicine. The encyclopedia proffers information on a number of cultures, tribes, and customs from East and West. Ancient practices to the latest fad, which in fact might continue ancient practices, are illuminated. Other considerations that arise in the essays include comparisons among cultures, the changing perceptions of the body, and issues of race, gender, religion, community and belonging, ethnicity, power structures, human rights.

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Editorial Reviews

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."

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ARBA

"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.' "

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Library Journal

"[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."

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Booklist

"…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."

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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."

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Choice

"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."

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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."

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Reference Reviews

Library Journal

Pitts-Taylor (sociology, Queens Coll., CUNY) has edited 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 signed entries are arranaged alphabetically by body part and include blood, the reproductive system, fat, and the genitals, which are further subdivided into subtopics such as female circumcision, foot binding, tattoos, and castration. There is a comprehensive index, and See also references at the end of some articles help locate subjects within the volumes that do not have their own entries. Each article contains suggestions for further reading, and a comprehensive bibliography for the entire resource is included in Volume 2. The clear writing will accommodate general readers. The entries themselves are evenhanded and steer clear of cultural judgments and bias.
—Amanda K. Sprochim

School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up

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. A detailed table of contents spanning both volumes helps orient researchers with listings by body part, internal and external, followed by subtopics ("Scarification" and "Stretch Marks" appear under "Skin," for example). A cross-cultural chronology covers from prehistory to the present. The entries each list print and electronic further reading resources. Most of the articles offer a global perspective, but some are decidedly Western in focus. Though there are many more instances in which anatomical discussions of body parts beg an illustration, only a handful of black-and-white photographs is provided, each well captioned and with sources noted. Some entries, particularly those related to genitalia, are mature in nature and often reference popular media to show cultural relationships. Entries on tattoos, piercings, and fashion will attract recreational readers as well as researchers. A selected bibliography of relevant books and scholarly articles is located at the end of the set, and a detailed cumulative index can be found in the second volume (unfortunately, it does not contain cross-references). This well-written, often advanced work will be highly useful in libraries with strong sociology or popular-culture collections.-Courtney Lewis, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313341458
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Pages: 632
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

VICTORIA PITTS-TAYLOR is Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She specializes in social theory and sociology of the body and is the author of Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Surgery (2007) and In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification (2003).

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Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chronology

The Encyclopedia

Selected Bibliography

About the Editor and Contributors

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