Cuts and Bruises and Democratic Contestations: Male Bodies, History, and Politics


Dudink, Stefan. 2001. “Cuts and Bruises and Democratic Contestation: Male Bodies, History, and Politics.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 4 (2): 153-170. 

Author: Stefan Dudink


The neo-classical model of the male body held a special place in late 18th-century political culture. Its impermeability, resulting from neoclassicism’s focus on line and contour, was especially invested with political meanings. It symbolized political and moral regeneration and helped create a ‘stoic’ male political subjectivity that validated the seizure of power by revolutionary citizens. This article discusses the meanings of visual representations of mutilated, violently opened male bodies against the backdrop of the importance of the impermeable, neo-classical male body. The author argues for understanding these bodies as testifying to the indeterminacy that came with modern democratic political life. Following French political philosopher Claude Lefort, he describes democratic society as a society that cannot be represented through the organic totality of the body. Society and politics under democracy are of an open-ended nature: opened bodies testify to this and unsettle the appearance of political stability and ‘closure’ that representations of the ideal body attempt to create.

Topics: Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Governance, Political Participation, Violence

Year: 2001

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