The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Embodiment and Agency

Embodiment and Agency

Edited by Sue Campbell, Edited by Letitia Meynell, and Susan Sherwin
  • Copyright: 2009
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 288 pages
  • Illustrations: 3 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03522-2
“Bridging the gap that too often exists between theories of agency and embodiment, this exciting collection examines how bodies are agenetic and how human agency in the world is embodied. This volume will be welcomed by feminists and others who are interested in the ethical, political, economic, and global dimensions of human bodily agency.”
“The essays contained in this volume offer fascinating philosophical, religious, scientific, historical, and political reflections on what it means to express (and fail to express) agency in and through one’s bodily interactions with other bodies. Above all, Embodiment and Agency reveals the diverse ways in which the experience of agency is always already embodied, thereby countering traditional liberal views that identify agency with conscious activity or a particular set of cognitive capacities.”

Themes of embodiment and agency have long been central to feminist philosophical thought and have increasingly led feminists to extend their theorizing to encompass a range of identities shaped by processes of gender, race, class, disability, and sexuality. The intersection of these themes, however, has often been limited to analyzing how specific modes of socialized embodiment can be impediments to agency or autonomy.

Embodiment and Agency is distinctive in bringing a remarkable range of theoretical perspectives and resources to the project in ways that stress possibilities as well as constraints. Contributors utilize, for example, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, care ethics, analytic philosophy, Hegelian critique, and postcolonial theory to examine embodiment and agency in contexts ranging from a child’s struggle to find her own identity to global politics. The volume is integrated through its theme, through an introductory essay situating the contributions in relation to each other and to current feminist theory on agency, and through the structuring of the contents into two distinct sections.

Part I, “Becoming Embodied Subjects,” explores how we become individually and collectively identified subjects through the possibilities for agency that arise from specific modes of embodiment. Part II, “Embodied Relations: Political Contexts,” continues the theme of embodied agency in contemporary sociopolitical contexts. It challenges the reader to reconceptualize the links between embodiment and moral agency in ways adequate to political realities, personal relationships, and collective responsibilities.

Sue Campbell is Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

Letitia Meynell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Dalhousie University.

Susan Sherwin is Professor of Philosophy at Dalhousie University.



Introduction: Minding Bodies

Letitia Meynell

Part I: Becoming Embodied Subjects

1. Emotional Metamorphoses: The Role of Others in Becoming a Subject

Kym Maclaren

2. Racial Grief and Melancholic Agency

Angela Failler

3. A Knowing That Resided in My Bones: Sensuous Embodiment and Trans Social Movement

Alexis Shotwell

4. The Phrenological Impulse and the Morphology of Character

Rebecca Kukla

5. Personal Identity, Narrative Integration, and Embodiment

Catriona Mackenzie

6. Bodily Limits to Autonomy: Emotion, Attitude, and Self-Defense

Sylvia Burrow

Part II: Embodied Relations, Political Contexts

7. Relational Existence and Termination of Lives: When Embodiment Precludes Agency

Susan Sherwin

8. A Body No Longer of One’s Own

Monique Lanoix

9. Premature (M)Othering: Levinasian Ethics and the Politics of Fetal Ultrasound Imaging

Jacqueline M. Davies

10. Inside the Frame of the Past: Memory, Diversity, and Solidarity

Sue Campbell

11. Collective Memory or Knowledge of the Past: “Covering Reality with Flowers”

Susan E. Babbitt

12. Agency and Empowerment: Embodied Realities in a Globalized World

Christine Koggel

List of Contributors


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