Orzeck R, 2007, "What does not kill you: historical materialism and the body" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25(3) 496 – 514
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What does not kill you: historical materialism and the body
Received 6 August 2004; in revised form 7 November 2005; published online 30 March 2007
Abstract. In recent decades the body has become an important object of inquiry within the discipline of geography, as it has within the humanities and social sciences more generally. Though often critical of the tenets of poststructuralism, Marxist geographers have responded with enthusiasm to the imperative that we denaturalize the body, and have demonstrated a capacious store of resources available to this task. Building on recent efforts by geographers to conceptualize a Marxist theory of the body, this paper moves in two directions. Aligning myself with those interested in demonstrating the constructedness of the body, I begin by arguing both that the notion of bodies-as-produced is latent in historical materialism and that we can employ our insights about the production of space in order to think about the production of bodies. I then turn away from this discussion of the production of bodies and consider whether there is, in the bloodline of theoretical Marxism, any notion of the natural body with which we must contend. I argue that evidence of such a body can be found both in deliberate treatises on the subject and in the work of at least one scholar for whom the body was not an explicit object of study. These investigations, moreover, suggest that historical materialism implies not only the production of bodies but also what presupposes and enables this production. I conclude by considering some of the implications of subscribing to a historical materialist theory of the body.
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