There is no such thing as “the” human body.

“The recent outpouring of [scholarly] work on the history of the body . . .”

–Carolyn Walker Bynum

The 48 essays and photographic dossiers in these three volumes examine the history of the human body as a field where life and thought intersect. They show how different cultures at different times have entwined physical capacities and mental mechanisms in order to construct a body adapted to specific moral ideas or social circumstances.

Zone Books, a division of The MIT Press


Part 1 explores the human body’s relationship to the divine, to the bestial, and to the machines that imitate or simulate it.


Part 2 covers the junctures between the body’s “outside” and “inside” by studying the manifestations – or production – of the soul and the expression of the emotions and, on another level, by examining the speculations inspired by cenesthesia, pain, and death.


Part 3 brings into play the classical opposition between organ and function by showing how organs or bodily substances can be used to justify or challenge the way human societies function and, conversely, how political and social functions tend to make the bodies of the persons filling them the organs of a larger body – the social body or the universe as a whole.

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