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Self-Presentation and Bodily Rituals in Cultures

This annotated bibliography explores the ways in which the bodily presentation and bodily rituals are displayed across different cultures and the relationships between these ways and broader cultural context. It highlights how different cultural attitudes and traditions shape the ways in which individuals engage with and relate to their bodies. The literature presented provides the academic base for anthropological discussions on the topics of bodily rituals and self-presentation.

Liebelt, C. (2016). Manufacturing beauty, grooming selves: The creation of femininities in the global economy – An introduction. Sociologus, 66(1), pp. 9-24.

The relationship between beauty standards, modern consumption, and cultural differences has long been a topic of research in social sciences. Liebelt (2016) aims to analyze the relationship between aesthetic body modifications and the creation of gender distinction between bodies and moral self-awareness in the context of culture and economics. The author utilizes comparative cross-culture analysis and literature review for her article. She analyses specific looks as a form of social distinction and highlights the necessity of perceiving aesthetic body modifications as elements within cultural and economic contexts and not individual choices. She builds a strong case for the necessity of the anthropological research of beauty practices, including the social ramifications of those in the context of various genders. Finally, she conceptualizes cultural bias on the female appearance by accounting for the capitalist influence. This article, being just an introduction to a more comprehensive study, provides only a general overview of the topic. However, the analysis allows us to focus on the differences in the influence of beauty regimes on different genders, especially females.

Soukup, M. & Dvorakova, M. (2016). Anthropology of body: The concept illustrated on an example of eating disorders. Slovenský Národopis, 64(4), pp. 513-529.

The societal perception of eating disorders and the dangers associated with them differ substantially across cultures. Soukup and Dvorakova (2016) aim to develop the anthropology of the body as one of the branches of this science through the advancement of their own concept, obtained through their own research and analysis of the literature. The authors examine the body at three structural levels using eating disorders as a prime example. The paper concludes by supplying evidence to the view of eating disorders as a cultural manifestation. Besides, as a result of their study, the authors relate norms to the disciplination of the body, meanings to the semiotization of the body, and artefacts to the modification of the body. The latter is particularly relevant to the assigned topic, as bodily modifications are a direct manifestation of self-presentation. The authors are unclear on their methodology but specify that their research is primarily focused on the European countries. Overall, the article successfully argues for the study of bodily modifications and self-image as an area of anthropology and provides three distinct ways of analyzing the connection between the two.

Eichberg, H., Larsen, S. & Roessler, K. (2017). Gliding body – Sitting body. From bodily movement to cultural identity. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 12(2), pp. 117-132.

The article studies the religious and cultural origins in bodily rituals prevalent in modern popular sports. Eichberg et al. (2017) aim to analyze, contextualize and classify the deeper undertones in physical movements, particularly those tied to spiritual or national identity, using Norwegian skiing and Indian yoga as examples. Their comparative analysis points out religious origins in these sports practices and the unifying effects those continuously demonstrate. The article concludes by highlighting the lack of research on the ties between bodily rituals and spirituality in modern sport science. However, the analysis carried out allows concluding that engaging in various types of sports activities helps to expand potential, which in turn enables creating a cultural identity. This paper is valuable in its connection of national and cultural development with physical culture, providing an unusual perspective on identity development. It demonstrates the relevance of the cross-cultural analysis of the body activities in a variety of modern disciplines. In addition, the significance of this article is reflected in the studying of bodily rituals such as sports and their anthropological and cultural context.

Monocello, L. & Dressler, W. (2020). Flower boys and muscled men: Comparing South Korean and American male body ideals using cultural domain analysis. Anthropology & Medicine, 27(2), pp. 176-191.

This article examines the ideals of male beauty in South Korea and the United States and how these ideas affect the development of self-presentation in those respective countries. Monocello and Dressler (2020) cross-cultural scientifically verifiable research through mixed methods and cultural domain analysis to analyze the contrasting cultural patterns in relation to the perception of male beauty in those countries. The research focuses on the broader topic of body representation and the prevalence of eating disorders, as these standards affect self-representation. The study indicates that American men, the White demographic in particular, perceive hyper-masculine muscly bodies as ideal. In contrast, people from South Korea gravitate towards more slender and “prettier” bodies, with common in-language comparison to flowers. The final conclusion is the effectiveness of using the cultural domain and residual agreement analysis in the classification of cultural standards of male beauty. This paper is an excellent example of how cultural differences manufacture contrasting beauty ideals for individuals within the same gender. The study is relevant due to the mapping of bodily rituals from the male perspective, which is more rarely encountered in such analyses.

Odinga, J. & Kasten, E. (2020). From the jungle to urban centers: Body image and self-esteem of women in three different cultures. International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, 4, pp. 1-20.

Another study of body image in women provides an analysis of self-presentation and body images in women of Columbia, Germany, and Guatemala. Odinga and Kasten (2020) utilize surveys with closed and open-ended questions along with the statistical analysis and p-values comparison to understand the female body ideals across these cultures. The study is intersectional and accounts for the ways in which social strata, ethnicity, and gender affect the perception of the body shape by an individual. The findings of the paper demonstrate that substantial differences in body shape ideals and related self-esteem exist between all three groups in question. The article is representative of the profound ramifications that social conditions, gender norms, and overall cultural contexts might have on the self-esteem and bodily presentation of an individual. Yet, it is essential to note that the three samples differ substantially in size as by authors’ own admission and are therefore not entirely representative. Nevertheless, the relevance of the article in relation to the topic is quite high since it describes the problem of the bodily representation of women and its connection with social, national and biological factors.

Tamari, T. (2017). Body image and prosthetic aesthetics: Disability, technology and Paralympic culture. Body & Society, 23(2), 25-56.

This study focuses on the rarely-reported bodily display of disabled people. In the paper, Tamari (2017) explores how modern prosthetic technology has changed the perception of the human body and disability by analyzing current trends and the manifestation of prostheses. As the analysis shows, the active participation of disabled people in various kinds of competitions increases the status of prostheses and the disabled themselves. In addition, such a representation actively contributes to the formation of a new direction — prosthetic aesthetics. However, modern science and public perception of this phenomenon fluctuate between two extremes. On the one hand, people are extremely positive about the attractiveness of the synthesis of man and machine, which forms an ideal symbiosis. On the other hand, many are repelled by the very idea of replacing a part of a living organism with something lifeless, even if this replacement is forced. This article is of exceptional value for research, reflecting the concept of the human body in perspective unusual for the average person. Since the research is directly related to the image of a person, Tamari’s research is extremely relevant to the topic under study.