Carnal Sociology
“The body is our medium for having a world.”
    — Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception






Offical Launch of schedualed for 37th World Congress of the International Institute of Sociology, in Stockholm, July 6-9, 2005.

Expected in the near future is a feature article, "Invitation to Carnal Sociology." This article will tackle some of the misunderstandings of Carnal Sociology as well as explicate the theoretical and methodlogical foundaitons of  the social science "from the body."


Are You A Carnal Sociologist?
The Carnal Sociology website is in its early developmental stages. If you are a  social scientist doing research on the lived social body and interested in sharing your research and participating in methodological and theoretical discussions about the body as an object of study and as instrument of research email Brian Lande to be posted on the People and Research page.

What is Carnal Sociology?

Carnal sociology aims to  understand the social world the way people do, viscerally,  through the body. The social world is constituted as much by the pains, pleasures, and peak performances of persons engaged in social activity as by the meanings and cosmologies attributed to the gesticulations of the sentient, living, and acting body.

It is an approach that "aims to provide a demonstration in action of the fruitfulness of an approach that takes seriously, at the theoretical, methodological, and rhetorical levels, the fact that the social agent is before anything else a being of flesh, nerves, and senses...a 'suffering being'" (Wacquant 2003).

A carnal sociologist immerses him or her self, as a full participant, in the social world under inquiry in order to capture the sensual  and moral attraction that make members of that world tick. It is an “ethnography by conversion,” in which a bundle of skills and interests are transformed by the institution under study such that the research becomes an experimental incarnation of institutional values and ways of being.

In part such an approach by a theoretically armed researcher is deemed necessary because a great deal of a groups knowledge of itself and the world is a tacit knowledge, embodied as collective bodily dispositions and perceptions that often are not or are cannot be articulated through language. This is due to no other fact than that the perceptions and actions that are generated in the bodies relation to the world are not founded  upon linguistic or propositional rules but literally inscribed in the flesh. As Bourdieu argued, "we learn by the body."


 Introduction: Why Cezanne?

Why open a web page on the sociology of the body with a painting by Cezanne? In fact it is because Cezanne paints pictures the way that bodies perceive the world. Cezanne’s genius is that he tried to capture in painting, in the return to the object, human being, that is, the existential ground of perception. ...[con tinue]

Key Theoreatical Texts

Bellow you find some of the key texts that have inspired carnal sociology. These texts cover a broad range of disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, and anthroplogy.

Personal Knowledge
By Michael Polanyi

Phenomenology of Perception
By Maurice Merleau Ponty

Pascalian Meditations
By Pierre Bourdieu

Body & Soul
By Loïc Wacquant

How Emotions Work
By Jack Katz

Being and Time
By Martin Heidegger

Being and World
By Samuel Todes

Being in the World
By Hubert Dreyfus

The Concept of Mind
By Gilbert Ryle

More >>>

Key Terms in Carnal Sociology

Carnal: pertaining to the flesh or body, its passions and appetites. Carnal refers to more than the sexual urges and needs of humans. Coming from 14th century Middle English, the term means "of the flesh" and in this sense is precisley what we mean by carnal sociology. It is a sociology of the flesh. Our bodily selves are the subjects of culture and it is impossible to talk about practices and the construction of the social world without reference to constiuting flesh from which the world takes its form and permenance.

Coporeal Scheme

Technique du Corp



A natural tendency inherent in a body to develop itself; an attempt; an effort. In Spinoza, the force in every animal to perserve its mode of existence.

    More >>>

Maurice Merleau-Ponty
"The Visible and the Invisible"

Click on the link [here] to go the developing page on Merleau-Ponty. In time this page should contain a comprehensive summary of The Phenomenology of Perception, as well as commentaries on this vital text.
Pierre Bourdieu on the Web

"Everything is social"

Pierre Bourdieu was a sociologist who's entire ouevre in one way or another  can be seen as an ongoing project of reflexivley identifying, historicizing and obliterating the binary categoreis of thought (subject/object, theory/method, micro/macro, etc) that act as epistemological obsticals to sociological analysis.. He had a particular interest in

target="_blank">The Sociological Life of Pierre Bourdieu." International Sociology 17-4 (December) 17-4: 549-556.

"An Inventive and Iconoclastic Scientist." Berkeley Journal of Sociology 46 (2002): 177-179.

"Everything is Social: In memoriam Pierre Bourdieu, 1930-2002"(with Craig Calhoun). ASA Footnotes 30-2 (February 2002): 5, 10. [long version]

Webmaster is Brian Lande
Department of Sociology
University of California, Berkeley
[email protected]


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