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There are two parts to my discussion of the sociology of the body. I first examine, via an account of the development of anthropology and sociology, how technology and culture have historically been analysed as mediations between the scarcity of natural resources and the vulnerable human body. Technology has been crucial in providing societies with some control or dominion over nature, including therefore control over the human body, yet is often thought to involve hubris against the gods and a threat to human life. Culture, in contrast, has more usually been seen as nurturing nature, providing humans with a symbolic means of mediating and domesticating their external physical environment. Whereas culture nurtures nature, technology can so easily destroy it. In the second part of my article, I demonstrate how these conceptual distinctions have assumed new dimensions in the contemporary era and analyse these by focusing on the implications of medical technologies for longevity (for example, therapeutic stem-cell research, regenerative medicine, and new reproductive technologies). Medical technology holds out the promise of prolongevity as a new mirage of health, offering life-enhancement or the secular promise of eternal life.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Journal Article

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