Two bodies or one? Reconsidering the anthropological idea of dichotomization as the basic mechanism of cultural thought about the body

  • Bojan Žikić Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
the body, cultural thought, Cartesian thought in anthropology


In contemporary anthropology there are two prevailing ideas on the ways in which the human body is culturally thought of: dualism and monism. The first idea is linked to Western societies, and the second is linked to traditional communities, which are the most frequent frame of reference for anthropological research, from the inception of the discipline up to contemporary times. The third, less prevalent idea suggests that there is no substantial difference between these different types of society, that all people, essentially, think about the body in a dualist way. The idea behind this paper is to set a basis for research which might come to show that, indeed, there is no substantial difference between ways in which people conceptualize the body and its cultural aspects in different societies, but that this is not the case because "we are all dualists", but because both dualist and monist cultural conceptualization of the body is contextual, and both of these can be found in societies and cultures which we signify as "modern" or "western".


Download data is not yet available.


Astuti, Rita. 2001. “Are we natural dualists? A cognitive developmental approach”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 7: 429-447.
Bandic, Dusan. 1990. Carstvo zemaljsko i carstvo nebesko. Beograd: XX vek.
Bird-David, Nurit. 1999. ” ’Animism’ Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology”. Current Anthropology 40 (1): 67-91.
Caslav Covino, Deborah. 2001. “Outside-In: Body, Mind, and Self in the Advertisement of Aesthetic Surgery”. The Journal of Popular Culture 35 (3): 91-102.
Carsten, Janet. 1995. “The substance of kinship and the heat of the heart: feeding, personhood and relatedness among Malays in Pulau Langkawi”. American Ethnologist 22 (2): 223-241.
Csordas, Thomas. 1994. "Introduction: the body as representation and being-in-the- world". In Embodiment and experience: the existential ground of culture and self, ed. Thomas Csordas, 1-24. Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press.
Daglas, Meri. 1994. Prirodni simboli. Novi Sad/ Podgorica: Svetovi/ Oktoih.
D’Andrade, Roy 1995. The Develpoment of Cognitive Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Descola, Philippe. 1994. In the Society of Nature: A Native Ecology in Amazonia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Farrell, Clare, Michelle Lee and Roz ShafTan. 2005. “Assessment of Body Size Estimation: A Review”. European Eating Disorders Review 13: 75-88.
Gell, Alfred. 1998. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gerc, Kliford. 1998. Tumačenje kultura I. Beograd: XX vek.
Hornborg, Alf. 2006. “Animism, Fetishism, and Objectivism as Strategies for Knowing (or not Knowing) the World”. Ethnos 71 (1): 21-32.
Ingold, Tim. 1991. Becoming persons: consciousness and sociality in human evolu¬tion. Cultural Dynamics 4 (3): 355-378.
Ingold, Tim. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London: Routledge.
Ivanović, Zorica. 1997. "O zabrani braka s afinalnim srodnicima”. U Etnički I etnokulturni kontakti u panonsko-karpatskom prostoru, ur. Nikola Pantelić,, 117-134. Beograd: Posebna izdanja Etnografskog institute SANU, knj. 42.
Ivanović, Zorica. 2002. “Na koga liče deca: srodstvo kod Srva I princip percepcije sličnosti među srodnicima”. U Običaji životnog ciklusa u gradskoj sredini, ur. Zorica Divac, 375-408. Beograd: Posebna izdanja Etnografskog institute SANU, knj. 48.
Ivanović, Zorica, Predrag Sarčević. 2003. "O statusu tela u antropologiji". U Antropologija tela, prir. Zorica Ivanović, Predrag Sarčević, 9-24. Kultura, br. 105-106.
Lakan, Žan. 1983. Spisi. Beograd: Prosveta.
Lambek, Michael. 1998. Body and mind in mind, body and mind in body: some anthropological interventions in a long conversation. In Bodies and persons: comparative perspectives from Africa and Melanesia, eds. Michael. Lambek and Andrew Strathern, 103-23. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Laplanche, Jean, Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. 2004. The language of Psychoanalysis. London: H. Karnac Books Ltd.
Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno. 2007. “The Recall of Modernity”. Anthropological Approaches. Cultural Studies Review 13 (1): 11-30.
Leach, Edmund R. 1982. Social Anthropology. Glasgow: Fontana.
Lutz, Catherine A. 1998. Unnatural emotions: everyday sentiments on a Micronesian atoll and their challenge to Western theory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Lič, Edmund. 1983. Kultura i komunikacija. Logika povezivanja simbola. Uvod u primenu strukturalističke analize u socijalnoj antropologiji. Beograd: Prosveta/XX vek.
Malešević, Miroslava. 1997. „Dijeta, masovna ženska neuroza“. Glasnik Etnografskog instituta SANU XLVI: 173-188.
Marković, Boro. 1990. Strukturalistička psihoanaliza. Sarajevo: Svjetlost.
Mohanram, Radhika. 2005. “Dermographia. Written on the Skin or, How the Irish Became White in India”. European Journal of English Studies 9 (3): 251-270.
Mos, Marsel. 1982. Sociologija i antropologija I. Beograd: Prosveta/ XX vek.
Muller, John P, William John Richardson. 1982. Lacan and Language: A Reader’s Guide to Écrits. New York: International Universities Press.
O’Connor, Richard A, Penny Van Esterik. 2008. “Demedicalizing anorexia. A new cultural brokering”. Anthropology Today 24 (5): 6-9.
Paley, John. 2002. “Benner’s remnants: culture, tradition and everyday understanding”. Journal of Advanced Nursing 38 (6): 566-573
Palmeirim, Manuela 2010. “Discourse on the invisible: senses as metaphor among the Aruwund (Lunda)”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 16: 515-531.
Porter, Roy. 2003. Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul. New York: Norton.
Robertson, A.F. 2011. “How can Lukoho be his own grandfather? Being and becoming in the Cartesian gap”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 17: 585-603.
Schnedier, David Murray. 1984. A Critique of the Study of Kinship. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, Margaret M. Lock. 1987. “The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology”. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1 (1): 6-41.
Staples, James. 2010. "Body". In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, eds. Alan Barnard and Jonathan Spencer, 91-93. London and New York: Routledge.
Strauss, Claudia, Naomi Quinn N. 1997. A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Synnott, Anthony. 1993. The Body Social: Symbolism, Self and Society. London: Routledge.
Trebješanin, Žarko. 2007. Rečnik psihoanalize. Beograd/ Podgorica: Službeni glasnik/ Nova knjiga.
Warin, Megan. 2004. “Primitivising Anorexia: The Irresistible Spectacle of Not Eating”. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 15 (1): 95-104.
Žikić, Bojan. 2011. “Poimanje kulturnog identiteta, kulturnih vredosti I društvenog reda u Beogradu na početku XXI veka”. Antropologija, br. 2, 9-40.
How to Cite
Žikić, Bojan. 2014. “Two Bodies or One? Reconsidering the Anthropological Idea of Dichotomization As the Basic Mechanism of Cultural Thought about the Body”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 9 (4), 849-78.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>