But what is a body? … For Spinoza, the individuality of a body is defined by the following: it’s when a certain composite or complex relation (I insist on that point, quite composite, very complex) of movement and rest is preserved through all the changes which affect the parts of the body. It’s the permanence of a relation of movement and rest through all the changes which affect all the parts, taken to infinity, of the body under consideration. You understand that a body is necessarily composite to infinity.
Gilles Deleuze, On Spinoza (Lecture)
It has become common place to speak of the politics of the body; less common is a politics that begins from the plurality and plasticity of the body. By Paul B. Preciado (Liberation 10/11/2017) …
Crossed by multiple currents, desires, frontiers and injunctions, the human body is proteiform. It is in this way that it must be envisaged.
There are people who carry their body as if it were Chinese porcelain of the Ming dynasty. There are people who are not treated as citizens because their legs cannot walk. There are people who live to transform their bodies into that of Pamela Anderson. Others who try to make it like that of Jean-Claude Van Damme. And then again others who have two chihuahuas called Pamela and Jean-Claude.
Some carry their body as a common skin coat. Others as if it were a transparent dress. There are those who dress to be naked and others who undress to remain dressed. There are people who earn a living waving their hips. Others who don’t even know that they have hips. There are those who make use of their body as if it were a public space. And those who treat it as if it were the Grail.
There are those who perceive their body as a savings account. And others as if it were a river. Some people are enclosed in their bodies as if it were Alcatraz. Others who don’t understand freedom except as what the body can accomplish. Some people shake their hair to the rhythm of an electric guitar. Others experience the electric shocks rise up directly from their central nervous system. Some people don’t allow themselves to ever depart from the acquired gestural repertoire. Others get paid to overflow this repertoire, but only within the domain of art.
There are bodies socially used as sources of pleasure, value or knowledge for others. Others absorb pleasure, value and knowledge. There are people who are not considered as citizens because of the colour of their skin. There are those who walk on a treadmill to remain fit. While others walk 600 kilometres to escape war. There are those who don’t possess their own bodies. And others who believe that the bodies of animals belong to them. That the bodies of children belong to them. That the bodies of women belong to them. That the bodies of proletarians belong to them. That non-white bodies belong to them.
Some believe that they own their bodies as they own their apartments. Among them, some spend their time doing repairs and decorating. Others take care of their apartment as if it were a nature reserve. There are people who believe that they possess their bodies like cowboys possess their horses. They mount it, force it to gallop, caress it or beat it, give it food and drink, allow it to rest so as to take it under rein the following day. They don’t speak to their bodies, as they don’t speak to their horses. They are surprised when they discover that should their mount die, that they cannot continue alone. Various bodily services can be purchased with money. Others are considered inalienable. Some people feel that their body is completely empty. Others see it as a cupboard filled with organs. There are people who think of it as high technology. Others as a prehistoric instrument. For some, sexual organs are organic and inseparable from their very bodies. For others, they are multiple, inorganic and can change form and size. Certain people make their bodies function uniquely on the basis of glucose, whether it be in the form of alcohol or fast sugars. Some people send tobacco mixed with poison into their lungs. There are those who make their bodies function with neither sugar, nor salt, nor alcohol, nor tobacco, nor gluten, nor lactose, nor GMOs, nor cholesterol. There are people who treat their body as if it were their slave. And others as if it were their sovereign. Some people are not considered citizens because they prefer to live in conformity with the social conventions of femininity when their corporeal anatomy identifies them as masculine. There are those who do everything quickly but who never have time for anything. And those who do things slowly, who are even capable of doing nothing at all.
Some people are not considered as citizens because their eyes cannot see. There are those who take the penises of others in their hands just until they ejaculate. And those who stick their fingers in the mouth of others to fill cavities with white plaster. The first are called illegal workers. The others qualified professionals. There are people who are not considered citizens because they prefer to get sexual pleasure from bodies whose organs have forms similar to their own. There are people who pacify their nervous system taking anxiolytics. Others meditate. Some people drag their living bodies as if they were cadavres. Some bodies are hetero but only masturbate watching gay porn. Other bodies are not considered as citizens because they possess one chromosome too many or too little. There are those who love their bodies above all else. And those who suffer an indescribable shame from it. There are those who experience their bodies as if it were a time bomb which they are unable to defuse. And those who profit from it as if it were an ice cream. Some people carry incorporated mechanisms thanks to which their hearts beat. Others carry in their chest a heart that belongs to an other. And others again who carry, inside themselves, for a time, an other body in the process of growing. Who can then still speak of a human body as if it were a single body?