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Harnessing the Flesh. Social Class and Reflexive Embodiment.

Friday, 3 May, 2013 - 14:30
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Social Sciences and Solvay Business School
Dieter Vandebroeck
PhD defence

The public defence of the Ph.D. in Social Sciences: Sociology for Dieter Vandebroeck will take place on Friday May 3rd 2013 at 2:30pm on the Etterbeek-campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels in Building Q, room QD. The Ph.D. thesis is called "Harnessing the Flesh. Social Class and Reflexive Embodiment." (Promoter: Prof. dr. Ignace Glorieux)

Please confirm your attendance by Monday April 29 to .


Few things present themselves as being more personal, intimate and natural than the relationship to  our own bodies. If there is one thing that individuals can claim as being exclusively their own, it is after all their body. Furthermore, in a society that places ever more value on health, beauty and physical well-being, the body is increasingly seen as a malleable object that everyone can shape according to personal style and preference. This doctoral thesis questions such ideas and instead tries to demonstrate how the apparently most personal and individual aspects of embodiment are shaped by the socio-cultural environments in which we find ourselves. Through a comparative analysis of diet-, food- and sporting-practices, drawing on nine different surveys conducted in Flanders and Belgium between 2004 and 2010, this study will aim to show that when individuals perceive and judge their own bodies, they do so through the lens of their social background. The way in which they care for and invest in their bodies is itself closely tied to the material and cultural resources they have at their disposal. It is the possession of such resources which places effective limits on the plasticity of their bodies and especially on their capacity to realize the ‘ideal body’. It is the aim of this thesis to show that class-inequalities become, quite literally, inscribed in the flesh, that the most valued and most stigmatized physical traits are not randomly dispersed across social space and that to ‘feel good in your own skin’ is not a matter of biological or psychological factors, but a social privilege that is distributed in a highly unequal manner.