Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 6 (November/December 1999), Pages 397-482

Practices of body management: transgenderism and embodiment (pages 463-476)

Abstract

(Dis)ordered body management practices such as transgenderism and anorexia are largely conceptualized within psychology as the pathological manifestation of individual distress. It is argued that the way they are talked about, treated and ultimately understood as matters of and for health, serves the regulatory (socio‐cultural and political) function of targeting more visible embodiments as problematic and indicative of distressed subjectivity. A poststructuralist discourse analytic is employed as a means of exploring alternative constructions and understandings of problematic embodiment. It is proposed that transgenderism discursively and materially relocates (dis)ordered embodiment from the constituting realm of health to that of productive choice, wherein the notion of distress is questioned. As a matter of choice, gender (re)embodiment is understood as potentially positive, pleasurable and a site for non‐distressed multiple subjectivities. From this, it is suggested that community, health and social psychologists re‐evaluate current constructions of ‘problematic’ body management practices, account for their wider social and political function, and attend to ways in which non‐distressed management can otherwise be understood and supported. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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