Health and Bodies
Women's health has been a focus of both scholarly research and feminist activism since the mid-1960s. This work has dramatically changed the ways we think about the female life cycle, medical research, pregnancy, disease, wellness, the environment, nutrition, care work, and healing, in the past and the present, in the United States and throughout the world. More recently, studies of the gendered body have destabilized the body, acknowledged its performative character, celebrated its plasticity, and explored the symbolic work it performs. In doing so, scholars have transformed analyses of sexuality, visual culture, consumption, and theories of corporeality. By examining the intersection of health and bodies, we evoke these new understandings but also refocus attention on the material body and the political economy of gender.
Research on women's health and gendered bodies has been marked, from the outset, by attention to differences among women—related to age, nationality, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and colonial/imperial relations—as well as between women and men. Scholarship on health and bodies has also highlighted the social and cultural construction of health, health care, pain, ability, sexuality, and bodily norms. Still, these literatures have often existed in parallel universes, with only limited attempts to bring them into creative dialogue with each other. They have also been developed in distinct disciplinary universes—the hard sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities—that we hope to bridge in the IRW Seminar.