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The Embodied Life Course: Post-ageism or the Renaturalization of Gender?

Author(s): Barbara L. Marshall | Stephen Katz

Journal: Societies
ISSN 2075-4698

Volume: 2;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 222;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: aging | biomedicine | embodiment | gender | life course | post-ageism | sexual function | temporality

This paper argues that the sociology of the body must take more account of embodiment as an ongoing process that occurs over the life course, and it suggests that a critical perspective is required that emphasizes the material processes of embodiment by which physical changes in age and time are culturally mediated. We take the concept of the embodied life course as a starting point for probing the temporal aspects of bodily life, for exploring the ways in which biological, biographical and socio-historical time intersect, and for grasping the ways that temporality is materialized and mobilized through bodies. Taking the example of the biomedical reconfiguration of sexual function across the life course, we demonstrate how aging bodies have been opened to new forms of intervention that situate them within new understandings of nature and culture. Conclusions reflect on the contradictions of ‘post-ageist’ discourses and practices that promise to liberate bodies from chronological age, while simultaneously re-naturalizing gender in sexed bodies.

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