Throughout a large part of the twentieth century, the body was interpreted as a field of signs, the meaning of which pointed to an unconscious dimension. At the height of the popularity of structuralism, Jacques Lacan deemed the unconscious to be “structured like a language.” Starting in the early 1990s, however, a deep shift occurred in the way the body was interpreted. A new movement cast tremendous doubt on the hegemony of language and instead advocated a performative, pictorial, and affective approach — the so-called material turn — which encompassed all of these. In the words of Karen Barad, this turn inquired as to why meaning, history, and truth are assigned to language only, whereas the movements of materiality are given less prominence: “How did language come to be more trustworthy than matter? Why are language and culture granted their own agency and historicity while matter is figured as passive and immutable?” With this shift toward the material, bodies began to be seen in a different light and their materiality understood as something that follows its own laws and movements, which cannot be understood exclusively in terms of social-cultural codes. Instead, these laws and movements call into question the very dichotomies of nature/culture and body/spirit.
Marie-Luise Angerer; Moving Forces. the minnesota review 1 May 2017; 2017 (88): 83–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-3787414
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