The Beautiful Body and Its Discontents

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The fit body is thus the conspicuous product of the late-capitalist work ethic. It is the body as the focal point of an industry of self-care, a book of personal narrative upon which is inscribed the extent to which you have won at the game of contemporary life. Each hard-fought-for, shiny ripple of muscle is forever bound up in two economies—one of production, and one of desire. (Alang, 'Must Fit Bodies Be the Product of Hard Work?')

In a recent article on Hazlitt, Navneet Alang identifies a discourse of labour that accompanies the aesthetics of the beautiful body: it is the 'locus of how capitalism has turned the self into its most valuable commodity.' Alang mobilizes a popular form—the middle-brow blog—to talk about how contemporary popular and celebrity culture connect beauty with hard work, a new form of virtue within a late-capitalist work ethic.

We invite papers that interrogate these intersections: how do capitalism, popular and celebrity culture, contemporary media outlets, and the self-as-commodity shape our understanding of bodies? In what ways are cultures of resistance to normative, commodified discourses of the body vulnerable to co-optations by the very systems they speak back to?

We welcome submissions relating but not limited to any of the following topics:

The body on display: Bodies and film; celebrity culture; optics and erotics; digital selfhood and (re)branding the body;

The consuming body: Health food and optics; healthy and unhealthy environments; fatness and capitalist ethics;

The sick body: Mental illness in popular culture; mental wellness and cultures of positivity; mental health and productivity; slow violence, slow death, and illness as spectacle;

The 'fit' body: Disabled embodiment; commodity cultures and the 'impaired' body;

The (re)productive body: Pregnancy and motherhood; competitive parenting and the child as commodity.

Please submit abstracts to CFP 15244 through the centralized NeMLA system at Deadline for abstracts is 30 September 2014.