Body Technique Research Proposal & Relational Mapping Exercise Guidelines
Students are expected to complete assignments on their own time. This exercise is due February 6
The exercise is worth 30% of your final mark.
The objectives of this and the next two assignments are twofold: (1) to investigate the particularities of
what “plays out” on the body as “body techniques,” and (2) to recover the absent body that we seem to
misplace when we involve ourselves in performing body techniques.
Marcel Mauss originally said the term, “body technique” refers to “the ways in which from society to
society [people] know how to use their bodies.” Gesture, attitude and comportment seem “natural” when
they are “the shared property of an entire culture.” In this sense the body is used as a kind of instrument
of expression and communications. Suffice it to say that when we talk about “healthy” bodies, “fit” bodies,
or “disabled” bodies, we are talking about types of social relations. “Healthy” bodies, “fit” bodies, or
“disabled” bodies reflect typological thinking and classes of social status assigned to certain physical
attributes of bodies. The body then becomes a stage upon which sets of social relations are performed
by social actors and subjectivities embodied by those actors. At the same time, social actors as
embodied subjects tend to go through life often unaware of their bodies. On a personal level, the body is
then an elusive thing.
Leeming / SOSC 3014 / 2020
Step One – Select a Body Technique
The starting-point for any study of body techniques is looking for a routine that actually affects or
“shapes” what the body is doing. It is a routine that social actors adopt to fit into a society. A body
technique also reinforces a sense of belonging as a member of that society. In this assignment I want
you to select one body technique that is important to fostering a sense of who you are as a social actor
fitting into the society you live in. More specifically, I want you to select one body technique associated
with (an) attribute(s) of your body that has had a significant impact on how you have been able
(allowed?) to fit into the society you live in as a member. This may mean selecting a body technique that
is especially important to how you see yourself and want to be seen by others.
Step Two – “Mapping” Instructions
Produce a “relational map” of the performative codes and performative roles that attend to an example of
the performance of the body technique that you are intending to study. The relational map will be used in
your written proposal (Step Three) to illustrate a concise description of a cast of social actors who
organize their performances around explicit social expectations and obligations and in accordance with
certain social norms. Your proposal should not only include the map but also provide a written
description that explains what the map is about. Be sure to explain which performative codes “fit” with
which performative roles in first order observation. Also explain the hierarchy of roles that extend from an
“intermediate” zone to a “core” zone of what is to be emulated and a “marginal/side-lined” zone of those
whose performances cross thresholds concerning what is expected of them.
Leeming / SOSC 3014 / 2020
See the example of a relational map for “Front Double Biceps” pose and “bodybuilding” on page 4 of
these guidelines. Note that there is an “intermediate” zone in which social “actors” strive to emulate the
ideal type exemplified by the performative role of the core zone. Also make note that ideal types change
over time and anyone who believes that they belong in the core zone are continuously under pressure to
maintain their status – but constantly under threat of being devalued. Conversely, those who are
marginalized may redeem their value under certain terms and conditions in relation to the mainstream of
the intermediate zone.
Step Three – Writing up the Proposal for Investigating a Body Technique
This is a proposal – not an essay. It should be five or six pages. You may include photographs. You must
include a relational map.
Identify the body technique you want to investigate.
Explain: (i) what attribute(s) of your body is (are) important to the body technique and how this has had a
significant impact on how you have been able (allowed?) to fit into the society you live in. Describe (ii) the
physical properties that shape what the body does a part of a routine, (iii) any artefacts that are important
to doing the body technique, and (iv) the social needs that are satisfied by performing the body
As part of you description of (ii, iii, iv), include a relational map to illustrate an example of performative
codes and performative roles that you might expect to see in the performance of the body technique that
you are intending to study.
Leeming / SOSC 3014 / 2020
“Front Double Bicepts” ( Pose)
Woman standing and posing face on, feet positioned slightly closer than shoulder width; arms out to the sides, raised at the elbow, with bicepts flexed; legs and torso flexed to bring out the definition and mass of quads, abdominals and upper body.
Pose is standing, facing observer; arms out to the sides, raised at the elbow, with arm muscles flexed.
= Performative Codes = Performative Roles
First Order Observation Second Order Observation
“Fitness” & being “Fit”
Hypermuscular (Woman) Bodybuilder
(Leeming / SOSC 3B14/ l Map sample)
Pose is standing, facing observer; feet positioned slightly closer than shoulder width; arms out to the sides, raised at the elbow, with bicepts flexed; legs and torso flexed to bring out the definition and shape of quads, abdominals and upper body.
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