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BAEcon Economics and Finance / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Body and Society

Unit code SOCY30141
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


That we ‘have’ or perhaps rather ‘are’ bodies is one of the most obvious things about human beings and yet, as my hesitation over words (‘have’ or ‘are’?) suggests, it is also question-begging. This course is based around a number of the main interconnected questions that it begs, chiefly: what is the human body? What is the nature of our relationship to our own bodies (if relationship is even the right word)? And, what is the relationship of the body to wider society? These questions have a philosophical and theoretical aspect and early lectures explore this aspect. Fleshing out these theoretical bones, however, requires reflection upon empirical studies of such issues and social practices as obesity and bodybuilding, cosmetic surgery and tattoos. A large part of the course is devoted to just this. We consider a range of body-related issues and practices, drawing upon a range of different types of empirical data, from statistics to personal introspection via interviews, historical archives and ethnography, in an effort to make sense of this most obvious and yet most puzzling fact about ourselves: our embodiment.


Introduce students to different ways of understanding ‘the body’ and its significance in contemporary society.

Encourage students to engage with various debates, both theoretically and empirically motivated, about the nature of the human body.

Introduce students to a range of types of argument and evidence (theoretical and empirical) that can be used to address these debates.

Consider the impact of wider social divisions upon lived experience of embodiment.

Explore the various ways in which bodies are regulated and shaped in contemporary life


Learning outcomes

Student will be able to

  •  Identify and discuss a number of different theoretical/philosophical perspectives on human embodiment.
  • Invoke and critically discuss a number of empirical studies relevant to these debates, drawing out their relevance.
  • Refer to and critically engage with a range of different types of data in relation to these issues.
  • Offer informed and reasoned arguments in response to key critical questions addressed on the course.

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly 1 x 3 hour workshop. The course will utilise Blackboard 9 in delivering the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, supplementary material including films, and communication.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Informal feedback will be given on the non-assessed essay plan due before the essay, plus formal feedback will be given on the assessed essay.

Recommended reading

Body and Society (journal, available electronically via the library website)

Crossley, N. (2001) The Social Body, London, Sage.

Crossley, N. (2006) Reflexive Embodiment in Contemporary Society, Bucks, Open University Press.

Shilling, C. (2012) The Body and Social Theory, London, Sage.

Turner, B. (2008, 3rd edition) The Body and Society, London, Sage

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nick Crossley Unit coordinator

Additional notes

50% - 3000 word essay

50% - on-line, open book exam

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