The Pageantry of Western Bodies: Material Practices, Intercorporealities and Cultural Recycling in the Twenty-First Century
This thesis argues for a new way of thinking about the corporeality in cultural performance. Drawing on performance theory, cultural analysis, corporeal and materialist discourses, I demonstrate how the new workings of bodily materiality and its dramaturgical configurations constitute an extra layer of meaning, most readily discerned when the body is deliberately placed on a public display, thus also exposing and highlighting its – often exaggerated – material workings. The concept of material as used in this study does not denote the anatomical or organic, although it is informed by them; nor does it imply the purely representational body. What I call for is a quality of “presentness” engendered through materiality, between organic and representational, that is informed by historical and cultural context and the workings of fleshy reality, as well as the meanings created by the bodily image. The material layer persistently reveals itself in the four case studies which embody the “pageantry” of contemporary Western bodies and comprise the thesis: the dead body as represented by Gunther von Hagens’ plastinates, the pop body produced by contemporary popular culture, homo nudus, or the naked body, as it appears in theatre performance and the wrestler’s body in the context of professional wrestling. By departing from the well-established postmodern and phenomenological terminology, the study re-evaluates the contemporary status of the body and its reception, and offers new approaches to the heterogeneous bodily manifestations of the twenty-first century.