The iconography of disruptive bodies: social media and medical identities

Woolley, Dawn ORCID logoORCID: (2019) The iconography of disruptive bodies: social media and medical identities. In: Bodies in flux: embodiments at the end of anthropocentrism. Brill, pp. 9-35. ISBN 9789004408760


As an artist I examine how photographs discipline an individual’s relationship to her or his body and society. Working on the premise that the idealization of certain bodies has led to a reduced visual language of expression for the body, I explore ways of expanding this iconography. As a historical backdrop to this study, I discuss photographs created in La Salpêtrière hospital in the late-nineteenth century. During this time, the women who best performed the contorted shapes of hysteria were photographed for the Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière (Charcot). Film stars began to imitate the women in the photographs, and the gestures of hysteria transformed popular expressions of passion. In this chapter 1 examine the cyclical relationship between body ideals, online social networks and individual bodies by exploring the selfie’s potential for self-creation, performance and masquerade. Alongside the ‘healthy’ productive body I will consider illness as a form of unconscious protest, referring to hysteria and its contemporary counterparts, binge and restrict eating disorders. Using the Foucauldian notion of the disciplined body, I will theorize online social networks and selfies as potential sites for disruption of hegemonic body-image ideals.

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