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Lecture 8 Nudity and Nature

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  1. Lecture 8Nudity and Nature World Population: Oct, 2009: 6.7888 billion – US Census Bureau Announcements ... ? CAUTION: sensitive material in artifact with attendance sheet Thursday – presentations begin – also, email me if you need assistance in finding articles for paper. In October, we begin to focus on material aspects of gender, sex, sexuality, and nature; consider bodies, among other things, “materials” on/in/through which gender, sexuality, and environmental ideals and practices intersect. Start reading A and S on Goffman on my Personal Webpage LINK, accessible through the homepage of the Department of Sociology and Criminology Closer to the final exam, The Smell of Burning Ants video will be show from 1:45 – 2:15 during class time following the regularly scheduled lecture. Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:30-3:30 McNally 412 – OR by appointment; daily email communication TodaySociology and Human Bodies SMUO Bell, D. and Holliday, R. (2000). Naked as nature intended. Body and Society, 6 (3/4), 127-140.

  2. Why should sociology give “voice” to material aspects of how we negotiate our bodies through society? photos LIBERACE www.reagleplayers.com; GHANDI www.larrymulvehill.com • To examine our interpretations of which materials we need and use, environmental sociologist Michael Bell draws from the work of: • Karl Marx • Abraham Maslow

  3. Karl Marx (1818-1883) • Our work – all of it – depends on interacting with and using nature in some way. That’s a fact of life. • We have bodies = We have needs. • To meet those needs, we turn to the external world for materials to clothe, house, and feed ourselves. • That external world is a “sensual” world – that is, a world we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. – things we sense • How we gather the materials from that sensual world varies from culture to culture – based on ideologies of need. • (photo from www.philothek.de) • Those cultural ideologies, based on need, dictate how we arrange ourselves and our economy around the natural environment. • This means that we/society and the natural world are inextricably connected, having an enormous impact on our economic system – because, after all, we need to buy “stuff” to meet our needs. • This intimate arrangement means that we both suffer and enjoy the consequences of how we set up our ecological community. • “Historical Materialism” – Marx’s methodology to examine how actions throughout history impact our past present actions; an after-the-fact process which did not separate humans/societies from their past in order to understand where our ideas came/come from. • History = legacy of social activities. • This led Marx to believe that our materialistic needs were 100% socially constructed AND that we arrange ourselves/society in ways we can be almost certain to have those needs met.

  4. Main critique of Marxist thought: is it causal?

  5. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) (photo from photobucket.com) • Born in Brooklyn, NY, psychologist; worked with monkeys, noted several striking similarities between them and human society; for one: some needs take precedence over others For example, sex is a weaker need than thirst and eating • Heirarchy of Needs Pyramid • (photo miracopa.edu)

  6. Maslow…(though largely misinterpreted, and he later re-articulated his theory) • “basic” needs are at the base – we need to somehow fulfill those before successfully going on to fulfill others • We seek to fulfill those needs “unconsciously” • Much criticism of this theory: • Most important criticism: It does NOT address why we take more than we need! • Three other important failings in the theory: 1. Our needs and the ways we seek to meet them do not happen in a hierarchy; 2. The theory is too materialistic-based without much devotion to ideals, such as pleasure. 3. The theory is thoroughly Western-ized (in its origin and its target audience) – too much emphasis on “civilization”; we seek fulfillment in many directions; we, therefore, cannot generalize this to other cultures – even within Canada.

  7. In sum, many sociologists accept that - • Bodies are, among other things, materials through/on which ideals and practices are culturally influenced. • Our material body requires environmental materials in order to survive; entire societies are built from this need. • Materials from our environments are embedded in our everyday/everynight lives in ways of which we are both conscious and unconscious. • From an environmental sociological perspective, it is important to consider our bodies as “materials” in sociology in order to unpack new ecological dialogue on gender, sex, sexuality, and nature. • Remember: ideals, materials, and practices are not mutually exclusive • Because ideas are powerful things, we will now turn our attention to how various ideals around gender, sex, and nature are physically represented in the social and natural worlds... • Consider “materials” anything we sense or do with our bodies: SEE, HEAR, TOUCH/FEEL, TASTE, or SMELL

  8. Bodies – Environment – Gender - an example of this intersection The Eland Bull Dance: Tribal females act like eland cows who are romancing each other and mating, dancing backward toward the huts where the (newly) menstruating girl lays under a cloak. She “becomes” a woman because of the dancing outside. (www.dhushara.com/paradoxhtm/culture/eland1.jpg) Compare this to mainstream western culture - is there a comparable event/rite of passage here to respond to a female’s bodily changes?

  9. a material artifact found in South AfricaRock art on the ritual from about 3000 years ago in Fulton’s Cave, Lesotho (homepages.uel.ac.uk) What might be around in 3000 years to teach those future societies about menstruation as it is today for many females?

  10. Not only do we have dominant ideals about “natural” bodies, we constantly embed and interpret nude bodies in society • The Arts • Myth • Beauty • Strength • Eroticism • Sexuality • Taboo underground • Religion • Academic texts and popular press covers • Health and medicine Federation of Canadian Nudists based in Ontario (FCN LINKCAUTION: back nudity) Famous Photo of ???? (photographer: Annie Leibovitz)

  11. Wherever there is culture, counterculture is possible. Who might challenge this trailer’s presence in their community? What are some possible ideals of the counterculture?

  12. terminology • What is a naturalist? (photo www.msn.com) • What is a naturist? (photo www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire ) • What is a nudist? (clothing is not optional during at least some part of the naturist performance) (photo images-cdn01.associatedcontent.com) Much overlap exists, and we take them for granted, but they differ.

  13. - What makes a definition “official”? • Naturism / Nudism are defined by the INF (International Naturist Federation): • “Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through social nudity, and characterized by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment. • “Social nudity constitutes an essential characteristic of naturism, fully exploiting the beneficial effects of the sun, the air and water. • “Naturism restores the balance between physical and psychic dimensions, with leisure spent in a natural environment, through exercising the body, within the fundamental principles of hygiene and dietetics. • “Furthermore, Naturism fosters many activities by nurturing creativity. • “Complete nakedness is the "best-possible suit" to realise the return of humans to nature, and it surely is the most visible mark of naturism, even though it is not the only one. • “Nudity has a balancing effect on humans by reducing the tensions caused by the taboos and provocations of modern society, showing the way to a more simple, healthy, and humane way of living.“ (http://www.inf-fni.org/index_e.htm)

  14. ReadingBell, D. and Holliday, R. (2000). Naked as nature intended. Body and Society, 6 (3/4), 127-140. • Geography + cultural norms affect how well we can negotiate our nudity in society and nature. For example, despite morality resistance, the nudist movement aligned with the liberating effects of the hippie movement in 1960s North America. • In the early 1900s United Kingdom, as in North America, mass urbanization unfolded. This gave rise to a nostalgia toward the natural landscape many had left behind = a leisure ideal. • Many of those who had stayed behind considered themselves “naturists” involved in the back-to-the-land movement (vegetarianism, folk songs, handicrafts, communal living…). But, their paradise collapsed as they suffered from the leisure ideal in that the city folk wanted to return to the countryside now and then.

  15. IN GERMANY • Hitler outlawed social nudity---it became a material/physical/concrete representation of deviance • This affected more than 3,000,000 German people • Prior to that, it had been practiced and/or tolerated by the German populous for the most part • This new law marked the first significant division in where it was acceptable to be nude and where it was not; “out” in nature, it was a natural thing, but in the city or suburbs, it was viewed as lewd and sexual. IN ENGLAND Around the same time Hitler outlawed social nudity, England’s eccentric writers and artists, who took part in nudity performances as a social fact, found themselves scorned by the morality squads of the day – they were treated as vulgar, and were driven even further underground, such as the “BlackThorn’s Sun Club” which is going strong today.

  16. Ties between naturism/nudity and sexuality: • In England at the beginning to mid-1900s, the countryside was becoming re-Romanticized – this included not only the landscape and beaches, but also the ideal of the humans who lived there --- rugged, naked, natural, animalistic… which lent to an erotic ideal of the countryside. • Sex in the outdoors had been correlated with social outcasts, particularly gay men, which was interpreted as eroticism within that leisure ideal of the countryside. Today’s artifact – a material representation of today’s ideals. • However: Men now had an arena to be men, as part of a gay ideal and in direct response to the feminization of society and a growing sense of feminism in the air. • In North America, men headed to the wilderness and wrote about it, such as Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. They believed they were discovering/re-discovering their “deep masculinity” whereby becoming a man meant connecting intensely with nature through interaction rituals with the natural world around them. (Women stayed home with the kids!)

  17. All of this heated up the minds of the English status quo… Causing a moral panic of sorts … Spurring off intensified surveillance of “queer society” • Note the intersection of sexuality, bodies, and environment in that phenomenon • We are constantly on guard against nudity and open displays of homosexuality, considering them deviant aspects of western ways of public life. • Are you under surveillance? How are we “on constant guard” against public nudity in SMU culture? • LINKSMU link to International Students Handbook on “What to Wear” • In the early 1960s at SMU, “there was a dress code. The students were expected to wear shirts and ties to class at all times” (http://www.smu.ca/administration/archives/decade_1960.html). • What are some other examples of moral panics around nudity? • Is a naked body closer to nature?

  18. Next Class Readings • SMUO Holmes, J.S. (2006). Bare bodies, beaches, and boundaries: Abjected outsiders and rearticulation at the nude beach. Sexuality and Culture, 10 (4), 29-53. • NET David H. Net Nude – Crystal Crescent Beach, Halifax, Nova Scotia. www.netnude.com/main/info/canada/cyrst981.html