Representation of the body in different cultures


The body is present and represented in every culture. Depending on where we live a different representation of body, personality and life and their relationship to each other exists. The three cannot exist without one another.

In extreme islamic culture the power of the body, especially the women body is highly recognized and feared for it’s impact it can have. The way people are trying to take away this power, is by enclosing women in wearing a complete veil, which is an extreme way of treating the subject matter.
The veiling of the complete body, takes away the personality as well as it changes the life of the person who has to be veiled. With hiding the body and personality, power is taken away, which creates a patriarchal society. It is the creation of control over the body and personality and so a person’s (and group’s) impact on society as well as the image of this group in society.

In western culture the nude woman is present everywhere especially in new media. Never it has been that easy to access images and be constantly displayed to those nude images. The over doing of representing the nude and it’s different representations create an objectification of women body. It is the other extreme of the fear of the body.
The western culture is believed to live in a so called ‘rape-culture’ where, shortly explained, the woman, through misrepresentation of an objectified body, is lead to a misrepresented reality of her individual personality. She is subconsciously representing herself the way it is portrayed by the images. Men as well, subconsciously accept and expect a woman’s body and personality to be and react a certain way.

The power of the body here is used in a complete different way but it has the same outcome on a society as in extreme islamic culture. A power of one group over another, acquired by taking away the body’s initial meaning, ignoring the fact that tied to a body there is a life and a personality.

In third world countries, for example India, where death is present and people are confronted with decreasing dead bodies everyday (may it be animal bodies or human bodies), the body has a much different value. The body is holder of life. Being confronted with death on a daily basis makes the own and also the other’s body more valuable.

All cultures should accept that the body in first instance is the holder of life in it’s pure essential form of being a body. The power it beams upon others is created by rules and prohibitions as well as false representation in form of an object. We should find a healthy respective middle between those extremes to accept human body as what it is: a body, holder of life in relation with individual personality.

Leopoldine Liechtenstein


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