Understanding Bodies: Learning Through Bodies

Coined in 1989, “bodylore” explores body beyond its anatomy and within cultures, through costumes, movements, in discourses, as identities and as representations. Our bodies are our strengths, our limitations. It is defining our cultures, exhibiting the taboos, and representation of ourselves through our social construction. When we think of a body, or bodies, we usually return to the physical structure of the formation of that body/bodies. But are bodies just what we see? Do they not manifest our own learnings and understandings of a society, human behavior and gender practices? Yes, they do! Just as our understandings of our societies, genders, economy and philosophy evolves, so does bodies and concepts around it. Understanding of bodies is fluid and it can be constructed and deconstructed. 

Young, 1995

As a student of Sociology and Women’s Studies, bodylore cannot be isolated from my home discipline or job interests. When our physical existence cannot take place without our bodies then how can we learn and work without understanding its mechanism. Women’s Studies and Sociology both work as agents of change through which we can shape our understandings on relations, identities, and agencies. So, I will have to say the concepts of bodylore are taken seriously in this discipline be it through theories, ideologies, movements, or studies. The methodologies in both these disciplines incorporate the substance of bodylore through methods of observation, qualitative or quantitative. For critics who say bodylore need not be integrated in these disciplines, I argue that to debunk any ideology or concept, we first need to understand it. In Sociology and Women’s Studies it becomes imperative to understand the concepts of society, gender, gender roles, forms of oppression, movements of resistance, the power dynamics and the difference with, the class system, the working bodies, bodies with disabilities, all of which is understanding through bodies, either defined by the society, or by the self, and that in itself is bodylore. 

With individuals in academia and professionals who are in the field of Social Science, it becomes crucial to regard bodylore as an authentic and credible source of methodology for their studies and research. Through the study of bodylore, professionals can understand people from diverse communities, as meanings are exerted through their bodies. It is needed in a global context. Bodylore helps study about emotions, trauma, reactions, and triggers. It helps therapists learn to study their patients and provide required help. Understanding bodylore makes employers better suited in coping with employees from different backgrounds. Through understanding of others, it helps us shift from our own dominant paradigm and reflect better upon our own identities as well.


Young, K. G. (1995). Bodylore. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Astha Bhandari is a graduate student at Old Dominion Universityin the Applied Sociology Program with a concentration in Women’s Studies. She has a Bachelor of Arts in the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. She also works as a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center. You will find her sitting quietly, passing gentle smiles across the room. She is not too vocal, but she loves to write. She admires the non-binary fashion!