Anthropology of the Body

Academic year
Subject Area
Área Científica do Menor
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
1st Cycle Studies

Recommended Prerequisites


Teaching Methods

The texts present in the syllabus match the themes covered in lectures. In the practical classes, students will invigorate the discussion in class or working group thus allowing the emergence of different experiences and perspectives. The intention is to promote the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and the building of stronger academic arguments.  

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students should have clear notions of the main concepts and categories employed in the theories and practices more relevant in the current context of globalization which mold the way people think and experience their own body - including the body itself - in its multiple representations and manipulations  as a social, cultural and political construct.

This is an interdisciplinarity course, which will be reflected in the readings. The bibliography ranges from several disciplines: anthropology, medical anthropology, philosophy, history, sociology, cultural studies, political science and gender studies. The course will focus predominantly in the text area central for this area of knowledge, together with ethnographic examples where these instruments are used for analysis. 

Work Placement(s)



The course starts by analyzing classical studies: the work of M. Mauss;  M. Douglas, the concept of habitus of P. Bourdieu; theories incorporating by Csordas and phenomenology of perception Merleau –Ponty; the ideas of the discipline corporeal dispositive and microphysics of power of M.Foucault. These classical theories are then related to more contemporary interventions. Via the text of Eisenberg and/or Scheper-Hughes and Lock the mind-body split is questioned and its consequences for medicine; unveiling the role of medicine and hygienist discourses to construct the colonial body; the shift related to the appropriation of the body through tattoos, and other body changes such as surgery, and how stigma relates to the body or the corporeal difference often presented from the norm. Themes, such as the relationship between the individual body, nationalism and political ideologies (body of the suicidal bomber), ending with of feminists’ interpretations on genders, are also tackled. 

Head Lecturer(s)

Jorge Filipe Sousa Varanda Preces Ferreira

Assessment Methods

Frequency: 100.0%


 ALMEIDA, M.V.-. 1996, Corpo Presente, Oeiras, Celta.


BOURDIEU,P. 2002, Esboço de uma teoria da prática: precedido de três estudos de etnologia Cabila, Celta, Oeiras.


CSORDAS, T., 1990, "Embodiment as a Paradigm for Anthropology", Ethos, 18 (1): 5-47.


COMAROFF, J (1993) “The Diseased Heart of Africa” in Lindenbaum, S. a. M. L., Ed. Knowledge, Power, and Practice. UCalPress.


DOUGLAS, Mary. 1973, “The Two Bodies” Natural Symbols. NY, Vintage, pp. 65-81.



FOUCAULT, Michel.  [1975] 1978. Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage.


MAUSS, Marcel. [1936] 1973. “Techniques of the Body.” Economy and Society, 2: pp. 70-88.


MERLEAU-PONTY, Maurice, [1947]. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Routledge.


ORTNER, Sherry B., 1972,  Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? Feminist Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1972), pp. 5-31

PORTO, Nuno. 2001 “O Corpo nas Colónias”, Entre ser e estar: raízes, percursos e discursos da identidade, org. M. Ramalho e A Ribeiro, Ed.Afrontamento.


SYNNOTT, A. 1993, The Body Social. Symbolism, Self and Society. Londres: Routledge.