Welcome Home, Descartes! Rethinking the Anthropology of the Body

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Abstract

For many scholars, the Cartesian mind/body split is one of the fundamental mistakes of the Western scientific tradition. Anthropologists who study notions of the body in cultures around the world regularly take Descartes as their point of departure. Many also suggest that breaking free from Descartes is politically liberating: if the mindful body could be rediscovered, society could move away from its materialist, positivist, and commodity-fetishizing ways. Beyond the Body Proper is anthropology's best and most comprehensive anti-Cartesian manifesto to date. This volume brings together some of the finest studies on the cultural and historical diversity of bodies and minds. Yet anthropologists' blanket rejection of the mind/body dualism seems politically self-defeating. If anthropologists want to criticize racism, gender hierarchies, or discrimination against disabled people, they need to believe that the mind is independent from the body. In other words, they need to uphold the Cartesian split.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-158
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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