Body/Work: Aspects of Embodiment and Culture in Samoa
The body is a central reality of culture and a fundamental site at which culture is expressed, in action and in thought. Yet the body has not been systematically recovered by culture theory, because the body has usually been considered solely as an artifact of culture. In this text I argue that the body needs to be understood as the key site at which and through which culture is made possible, as an ongoing process of embodiment. Based on one year's fieldwork in Western Samoa, I describe some of the everyday practices through which embodiment is carried out as a culture-making process, and offer an outline of some basic propositions for a model of embodiment, as one way of making the body a central analytic issue in future developments in Anthropological theory. By linking everyday embodying practices with Samoan concerns for dignity, humility, and strength, I argue for a different way of looking at bodies, one which locates the body as a process of awareness and enactment, and not simply a thing culture acts upon.