What is a body?


I have a body that is apparently really mine, and it is what makes me me. I number it among my possessions and I claim to exercise full sovereignty over it. So I think I am unique and independent. But that is an illusion, because no human society believes that the body is any good on its own. All bodies are conceived, and not only by their fathers and mothers. They are not created by the person who possesses it, but by others. It’s not thought of as a thing, be it in New Guinea, Amazonia, East Africa or Europe. On the contrary, it takes on the form of its relationship with otherness and it is this relationship that constitutes the person. According to the present anthropological point of view, the Other refers respectively to: the other gender, the animal species, the dead and the divine (secularised, in the modern age, in the teleology of the living person). Yes, my body is the thing that reminds me that I find myself in a world that is peopled, for instance, by ancestors, divinities, enemies and other beings of the opposite sex. Is my body really mine? It is the very thing that determines the fact that I do not belong to myself, that I do not exist alone and that my destiny is to live in a social context.


224 pages • 24 x 26 cm • 19 €
Co-published musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac / Flammarion 2006
ISBN: 9782915133172