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The Variable Body in History


Edited By Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth

The essays in this book explore the different ways the body has been experienced and interpreted in history, from the medieval to the modern period. Challenging the negative perceptions that the term ‘disability’ suggests, the essays together present a mosaic of literary representations of bodies and accounts of real lives lived in their particularity and peculiarity. The book does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather it celebrates the fact that it is not. By presenting a group of individual cases from different periods in history, the collection demonstrates that any overarching way of describing bodies, or unifying description of the experience of the myriad ways of being in a body, is reductive and unhelpful. The variability of each body in its context is our subject.
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Epilogue: Variable Bodies, Buddhism and (No-)Selfhood: Towards Dehegemonized Embodiment


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Variable Bodies, Buddhism and (No-)Selfhood: Towards Dehegemonized Embodiment


Following on from current discourses within critical disability studies I investigate the parameters, opportunities and challenges of some Buddhist responses to variable bodies. Negotiating the different Buddhist modes between ‘karmatic’ sociology and ‘nirvāṇic’ soteriology, I develop outlines of Socially Engaged Buddhist ‘theology’ of bodily inclusiveness, arguing for a person-centred, non-judgemental approach to bodily variability and neuro-diversity. I conclude with critical ruminations about oppressive normalcy and by pointing out some pathways to navigating variability-affirming ‘anthroposcapes’ – landscapes of embodied human experiences.


Recently, Chris Mounsey has proposed a shift in critical disability studies, away from the Foucauldian emphasis on the notion of compulsory ableism – as, for example, in McRuer’s Crip Theory1 – toward a fuller emphasis on and an appreciation of the individual embodied experience.2 Mounsey theorizes this approach under the concept of variability, ‘same ← 247 | 248 → only different’3 as a discursive replacement to ‘disability’. Consciously or not, Mounsey’s radical reconceptualization and celebration of sameness in difference contrast-imitates Homi Bhabha’s observations on the oppressive fixation as ‘a ‘partial’ presence’ of the colonial subject through ‘the ambivalence of mimicry (almost the same, but not quite)’.4 The postcolonial critique of oppressive identity construction through mimicry is transformed for critical disability theory into the variability approach: Mounsey’s ‘same only different’ affords, without centre and margin, any variable body the complete autonomy of an embodied presence...

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