Body and Being

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Body and Being?

In the recent case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the Supreme Court held that free-speech restrictions based on the speaker's corporate identity are unconstitutional. In a First Amendment context at least, the Court saw no valid reason for treating corporate “persons” differently than human individuals. More than 200 years ago, however, Edward Thurlow, then Chancellor of England, had this to say about why one might draw a distinction between the two: "Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned; they therefore do as they like."

The Body and Being wiki has been established to explore how the body operates as a marker of social and legal identity in a variety of historical and rhetorical contexts. The issues presented by this inquiry include consideration of whether and how physical attributes such as race, gender, and disability should be accounted for in our understanding of what it means to be a "person" under the law. What are the philosophical and practical consequences of disembodied vs. embodied notions of personhood? Can we say that one must have a body in order to be a "person"? Does making the foregoing claim then require us to reexamine our understanding of what constitutes embodiment in the first place?

These are the questions with which our exploration originates. They will most likely lead to others. We have organized the discussion around a list of attributes that have all been used, at one time or another, to define and categorize persons. In identifying these attributes, we do not mean to validate the social, legal, philosophical, or moral systems through which they were enacted or imposed. Rather, by studying them and the rhetorical spaces in which we find them, we are trying to understand how rhetorical representations of the person provide a site where the conceptual and the physical, the general and the particular, and the public and private interests intersect.

Because the central inquiry of this class is concerned with what constitutes a "person," the First Amendment is an appropriate starting point for discussion. From there, we can determine what the basis for defining a person, at least in America, is, and how that basis applies as we craft our definition and adapt it to new circumstances.


Our Texts

The texts we are reading respond to a variety of rhetorical and historical contexts. They include important government charters, exhibits and legal documents, documentary and dramatic films, critical essays, and personal reflections. Rather than limiting our inquiry, the texts have provided a starting point from which we can begin to develop our own definitions of the "person" and our own understanding of how those definitions are linked to or engaged with definitions of the "body" via examining attributes that make up the definition of the person. These developments of the definition of a person are coming from definitions based on the law along with our own opinions and other media. In-class discussions can provide valuable insights on these texts as well, and, due to their very nature, allow for the sharing of varied opinions.

Identifying Attributes

From the very first day of class, we began building a list of attributes and that have been used to define and classify persons. In studying these attributes, we have attempted to grasp whether attributes such as race, gender, age, and disability are an essential part of personal identity, dictated by natural or physical laws. We have conversely also tried to ascertain whether they are contingent and shifting, arising out of historical, political, economic, cultural, geographic, and social circumstances.


The following guidelines and their associated explanations have been drawn, in some cases directly, from the Working Tropes wiki created by Andrew Famiglietti and his ENGL 1102 classes during the Spring of 2010 at Georgia Tech. They are designed to provide structure for our wiki process. All guidelines, except the project goals, are negotiable! Feel free to raise concerns or discuss possible revisions on the relevant talk pages. Also, to be sure to put your input into how the Wiki should be organized on the Organization Page.

Discursive Point of View

Unlike other wiki projects, such as Wikipedia, that strive to report the facts accurately as understood by reliable sources, Body and Being is designed to encourage original research and the development of new opinions and ideas. To enable this, the work here is guided by the Discursive Point of View which provides a framework for discussion, debate, and collaboration.

Style/Content Guidelines

The Style and Content Guide gives guidelines for drafting content, word usage, and text formatting on the Body and Being wiki.

Good writing Habits

The Good writing habits outlines an effective process that will help you better communicate your ideas to our audience.

Student Participation Guidelines

In order to make the Wikipedia better, if you are going to make an article that doesn't apply to anything besides just one post, then provide a link to another article, lets not make another page entirely that wont have any possible way of linking back to the other articles or to the general topic or purpose of the class. A sample format for such an action is as follows; Pernicious Anemia [1]. Finish your sentence but do not put the period, include the citation for the specific web address and then put the period in at the end. This makes a neat link to another page where a wealth of information about a very specific topic unrelated to our class can be found.

For students of 1101 at Georgia Tech participating on Body and Being the Participation Guidelines give guidance for how to keep up with the expectations for participation in the Body and Being wiki project.

Help! I don't know how to contribute!

For help with basic wiki skills needed for this project, try the Body and Being FAQ

Here are some Good writing habits students may want to cultivate.

For other information on using the wiki software consult the Main Page or the User's Guide

For help on getting involved or started, see the Organization Page.

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