Normative Embodiment. The role of the body in Foucault’s Genealogy. A Phenomenological Re-Reading

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In Foucault’s later works experience and embodiment become important for explaining the normative constitution of the subject: for norms to be effective, discourses are insufficient—they must be experienced and embodied. Practices of ‘discipline’ inscribe power constellations and discourses into subjective experience and bodies. In his lectures on the Hermeneutics of the Subject, he turns this ‘violent’ form of normative embodiment into an ethical perspective by referring to the Stoic tradition. Even though Foucault never developed a notion of experience and embodiment himself, his ideas can be re-read and complemented from a phenomenological perspective. The paper tries to investigate the role of bodily experience and practice in Foucault’s Genealogy and to bring it into dialogue with Husserl and Merleau-Ponty’s conceptions of the lived body. It will attempt to show that concepts like sedimentation and habituality can help to explain how cultural norms not only influence the way we think about the world, but also how we perceive and are affected. This operation of norms happens already at the lowest stages of experience, where embodied experience leaves its traces, in sedimentation and habitualization. These passive layers of experience are permeable to historical discourses, so that norms are literally inscribed in the body. These are the foundations for what I seek to define as: normative embodiment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-71
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the British Society for Phenomenology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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