A New History of Identity: A Sociology of Medical Knowledge by D. Armstrong

By D. Armstrong

Scientific texts offer a robust technique of having access to modern perceptions of disorder and during them assumptions in regards to the nature of the physique and identification. by way of mapping those perceptions, from their nineteenth-century specialise in disease positioned in a organic physique via to their 'discovery' of the psycho-social sufferer of the past due 20th century, a heritage of identification, either actual and mental, is printed.

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Death had constructed the end of life; it was now turn to discover its beginning. The rituals surrounding the disposal of the corpse had been directed at negotiating the great divide between corporal and noncorporal space. At the other end of life, the problem involved the reverse process: how to secure a separation of Man from nature at the moment of birth. Just as the Church had for centuries processed bread into the body of Christ, so the medical authorities had to manage a more profane process of transubstantiation through which the body of Man emerged phoenix-like from dirt.

What then could be more logical than a eugenics policy to remove those whose fitness compromised their human identity? What more rational than a new sanitary regime of purification that addressed bodies rather than dirt? ‘Back to nature’ was a slogan that was only possible as a consequence of the enormous journey away from nature that had been accomplished in the previous century. It was not the realization of a Darwinian dream, of a body adapted to its environment for that would require compromise and subservience to a natural order from which the caesural break had finally occurred.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the focus was on the educational and training implications of posture, but later more explicit links with health were made. Taylor placed posture first in his list of the five aspects of physical exercise that related to health (attention to posture, mobility exercises, muscle function, breathing exercises and skin friction – he suggested rubbing the skin with a goat hair glove). He noted that some American universities went so far as to take frontal and lateral sillouettographs to identify ‘postural blemishes’ so that students might be ‘shocked or stimulated’ to take corrective action (Taylor 1934).

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