Living Across and Through Skins: Transactional Bodies, Pragmatism, and Feminism

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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.

About the Author:
Shannon Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

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Editorial Reviews


"This is an important book for those interested in seeing how traditional philosophy can contribute to contemporary feminist theory." —Choice

Choice - Western Illinois University Fernandez

Sullivan (Pennsylvania State Univ.) constructs a pragmatic feminist theory by weaving together seemingly disparate strains of philosophical thought, including central ideas of Merleau—Ponty, Judith Butler, Sandra Harding, Lucius Outlaw, and Nietzsche, with the work of John Dewey. What survives scrutiny imbues a Deweyean pragmatism that emphasizes a dynamic, reciprocal, transformative relationship between individual members of the environment and with the environment itself, denying traditionally accepted dichotomies such as mind/body, subject/object, and nature/experience. Two ideas ground Sullivan's theory. First, human corporeality, not an abstract metaphysic, is the basis of truth, moral agency, conceptions of self, and human flourishing. Second, the improvement of individual embodied existence and the improvement of the world are mutually dependent. At times, the idea of bodies is somewhat elusive; still, Sullivan is superb at making difficult ideas in feminism and Continental philosophy seem natural partners for pragmatism. This is an important book for those interested in seeing how traditional philosophy can contribute to contemporary feminist theory. It complements Susan Bordo's Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (1993); Raia Prokhovnik's Rational Woman: A Feminist Critique of Dichotomy (CH, Jun'00); and Charlene Haddock Seigfried's Feminist Interpretations of John Dewey (2001). Upper—division undergraduates through faculty and researchers. —S. MartinellFernandez, Western Illinois University, Choice, December 2001

From the Publisher
"This is an important book for those interested in seeing how traditional philosophy can contribute to contemporary feminist theory." —Choice

"This is an important book for those interested in seeing how traditional philosophy can contribute to contemporary feminist theory." —Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253214409
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Shannon Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Transactional Bodies after Dewey
1. Living Across and Through Skins: Bodies in Transaction
2. Discursivity and Materiality: The Lived Experience of Transactional Bodies
3. Communicating with Another: Transaction and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Corporeal Existence
4. Reconfiguring Gender: Habit, Bodies, and Cultural Change
5. Transactional Somaesthetics: Nietzsche, Women, and the Transformation of Bodily Experience
6. Transactional Knowing: Toward a Pragmatist-Feminist Standpoint Theory
Conclusion: Transaction and the Distinctiveness of Races
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