In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Body

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Beauty
  • Biopolitics
  • Colonial Bodies
  • Education and School
  • Embodiment, Emotions, and the Senses
  • Ethnology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health and Medicine
  • Physical Education and Sport
  • Violence

Latin American Studies The Body
Zandra Pedraza Gómez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0284


Body studies in Latin America emerged in the last decade of the 20th century and encompassed disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in the social sciences and humanities. Latin American research has drawn on various academic trends. Poststructuralist and phenomenological currents and analysis of discourse and representations stand out. Much research involves essential elements of postcolonial and decolonial theories. The field has been especially interested in the possibilities of criticizing power and politics in everyday experiences and between subordinate and marginal groups and subjects. The publication of Latin American authors in journals from the Global North is scarce. The Latin American academic tradition in body studies is mainly compiled in books that bring together articles by various authors. Distinctive approaches to anthropology and history are recognized, but many publications correspond to inter- and multidisciplinary interests. Critical studies derived from the reception of concepts on power, hegemony, difference, and inequalities point at problems concerning education, gender, race, violence, beauty, and sexuality. The orientations of archeology and the genealogy of power proposed by Michel Foucault to analyze the functioning and inflections in anatomical-political and biopolitical terms have been influential. In studies with a phenomenological orientation, psychosomatic problems related to therapeutics, self-modeling, social change, and practices for reconciliation or social transformation stand out. From these perspectives have emerged the emphasis on performance and aesthetic studies and approaches that integrate body and emotions. These approaches have been interested in recognizing and strengthening the human condition as integral as well as the corporeal nature of culture without ignoring the political nature of existence. From this perspective, the authors propose body interventions for social and educational change, therapies, and practices for reconciliation.

General Overviews

Panoramic publications bring together historical-cultural studies on aspects of the past and present in various countries or just one. The selections of Cházaro and Estrada Urroz 2005 and that of Muñiz 2008 refer to Mexico, and those of Del Priore and Amantino 2011 and the dossier Corpo & Cultura 2002, published in the magazine História, focus on Brazil. Even if each country has particularities, shared interests and main methodological approaches stand out. The pre-Hispanic, colonial, and republican periods are the topics in these compilations. Currently, there are no works available that make a careful balance of the studies of the body. However, Muñiz 2015 and Ayoub and Soares 2019 show the main trends. Pedraza Gómez 2007 compiles reflections on aesthetics and politics, two relevant issues in the region, and Hering Torres 2008 offers a broader and intercontinental panorama of discourses and representations on bodily abnormality.

  • Ayoub, Eliana, and Carmen Lúcia Soares. “Estudos e pesquisas do e sobre o corpo: a produção da Pro-Posições (1990–2018) .” Pro-Posições 30 (2019).

    DOI: 10.1590/1980-6248-2019-0077

    The authors analyze the publication of articles on the body in this journal, which since 1990 has included an essential set of texts on physical education, recreation, sports, gymnastics, and leisure. The journal specializes in education and shows the importance of body studies in this field.

  • Cházaro, Laura, and Rosalina Estrada Urroz, eds. En el umbral de los cuerpos: Estudios de antropología e historia. Zamora, Mexico: El Colegio de Michoacán, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 2005.

    Twelve articles study permanence and transformations during Mexico’s eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The authors discuss constructivist perspectives about gender and the historicity of the nature-culture dichotomy. Studies on symbols and cultural representations focus on childhood, school education, and feminine and masculine nature in the nineteenth century. For the twentieth century, they address other forms of materializing the body: appearance and personal grooming, sexuality, and transgression as it occurs on the border.

  • Citro, Silvia. Cuerpos plurales: Antropología de y desde los cuerpos. Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2011.

    A collection of ethnographic works on performative practices of Argentina’s Indigenous and Afro-descendant groups. The main concern is the methodological aspects related to the character of corporeality and the embodied practices of ethnographic research. Embodiment and the corporeality of the researcher appear as fundamental elements of ethnographic work. Other authors address anthropological studies on sexuality and reproduction, corporal discipline and resistance practices, and corporal conceptions of the person.

  • Corpo & Cultura. Projeto História: Revista do Programa de Estudos Pós-Graduados em História e do Departamento de História da Pontificia Universidade Católica de Sao Paulo. No. 25. 2002.

    This report shows the 19th- and 20th-century panorama of the cultural history of the body in dialogue with French historians. Culture appears as a process in which body practices lead to diverse natures and bodily memories. The central relations thematized focus on disciplinary culture, body education, appearance, pleasure, the nation, and productivity. The report includes Portuguese translations of texts by Georges Vigarello, Claude Fischler, Jean-Jacques Courtine, and Michel de Certeau.

  • Del Priore, Mary, and Marcia Amantino, comp. and ed. História do corpo no Brasil. Sao Paulo, Brazil: Editora Unesp, 2011.

    The book brings together eighteen chapters on various bodily manifestations that extend from the Colonial period to the twenty-first century. The articles by Brazilian authors refer to diverse populations (Indigenous, workers, women, children, Blacks, religious) and issues characteristic of Latin American interests: evangelization, education, hygienism, beauty, sports, and aging. They also refer to contemporary aesthetic expressions. The book includes photographs.

  • Hering Torres, Max, ed. Cuerpos anómalos. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2008.

    Anomalies, deformities, and bodily monstrosities are the main interest of this compilation that highlights the body as a bearer of encodings. Discursive constructions and representations are the basis to discuss the production of a normative project that proposes ideal bodies converted into parameters to designate deviation and abnormality. Dwarfism, saintliness, blood impurity, penitentiaries, skin color, sex and age, vaccination, and violence show representations of normality.

  • Muñiz, Elsa. Registros corporales: La historia cultural del cuerpo humano. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Azcapotzalco, 2008.

    The cultural history of the body in Mexico is collected in seventeen pieces that record understandings of the body from the Colony to current aesthetic and political expressions. Health, biopolitics, forms of discrimination, sexuality, and identity are the headlines. Muñiz combines historical, ethnographic, and gender approaches to expose discourses referring to the practices that shape the body.

  • Muñiz, Elsa, ed. El cuerpo: Estado de la cuestión. México: La Cifra Editorial; Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2015.

    This reader brings together five articles to recognize an initial state of the interests that have motivated the studies of the body among some Spanish-speaking authors. Here theoretical frames are considered to investigate aspects of the body associated with gender, women, racial degeneration, approaches to studying practices, and body representations.

  • Pedraza Gómez, Zandra, ed. Políticas y estéticas del cuerpo en América Latina. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2007.

    The first part brings together research associated with the formation of Latin American nations, especially during the twentieth century. Body practices and discourses used in school, pedagogy, and physical education show the interest of states and societies in the bodily formation of citizens. The second part deals with the interrelationships of subjectivity and corporeality. Emphasis goes on the political reach that aesthetic expressions have acquired in the region.

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