SO6012 - Bodies in Social Worlds

What will I learn on this module?

Sociology has, in recent years, grappled with the social nature of the body, showing that the examination of bodies belongs as much to sociology as to the biomedical and natural sciences. On this module you will learn about how social worlds shape bodies and bodies shape social worlds. You will critically and creatively examine the body in ways that allow you to engage with and develop rich sociological understandings about how social worlds, and the web of relations that create them, shape the ways people live in and manage human bodies.

You will look at how social worlds stratified by intersecting differences and inequalities of ‘race’, gender, class, disability, health, age, and sexuality inform how bodies come to ‘matter’ and how bodies get ranked along lines of appearance, fitness, form, and ability. You will explore the social worlds - the relational and discursive spaces (such the media, schools and workspaces, gyms, beauty therapists, toilets, and care settings) - that shape how bodies get used, styled, scrutinised, policed, or catered to, and ask how social worlds create possibilities for different bodily performances and practices as they establish differing conventions of bodily comportment, appearance, productiveness, affect and style. You will be supported to engage in theoretical discussions about how people ‘live’ with, in, and as bodies as sites of action, expression, and feeling at the same time as bodies are sites of medical, legal, cultural, and social regulation.

A core theme that you will address across the module, linked to discussions of inequalities, differences, and the regulation of diverse embodiments, is the intimate politics and practices associated with the social shaping of bodies, asking how bodies matter, which bodies thrive and flourish, and which bodies feel the weight of an uncaring social world. An additional thread throughout the module will be how media images and representations of bodies, and their currency in everyday interactions, influence - but do not necessarily always determine - our understanding of them and their diversity within social worlds.

How will I learn on this module?

This module will make use of interactive lectures and workshops in which students will be encouraged, with supportive feedback, to take a lead on applying theory to documents of bodily life in order to ask questions about how bodies matter. Students will be expected to engage carefully and analytically with a range of theories and documents, drawing on social theory to consider the various ‘bodies’ that social worlds produce and to reflect on the significance of this for how we live in a world populated by diverse bodies.

One-hour weekly lectures will outline key theoretical perspectives and debates in the sociology of the body/embodiment and explore contemporary issues and experiences associated with bodies, relations, identities, and emotions.

Weekly two-hour workshops will develop students’ sensitivities towards thinking about bodies, embodiment and matter by drawing on documents that represent the meaning, drama, reflexiveness, and phenomenology of bodily life and the relationships and interactions in which bodies are co-present. Drawing on a range of documents, such as anonymised interview transcripts, personal narrative, documentary and film, social and digital media, fictional writing, and photography, you will explore the complex ways people are subjectively embodied, living in/as bodies that are subject to varied forms of social regulation and positioning.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will receive detailed module information via the Blackboard site, including a full reading list of essential and recommended reading. For each lecture you will receive materials that provide structured information and guidance on theoretical readings and sources of empirical evidence related to each weekly topic. In workshops you will be supported through the provision of relevant documents, and will be assisted in identifying and introducing your own material. Here students will take the lead in sociologically dissecting these documents of bodily social life, identifying appropriate sociological theories for making sense of the social body and presenting findings in a range of formats. The Module Leader will use their experience of conducting research on the body, identity, and inequality to ensure students approach the range of topics in a way that considers the real world implications of studying and exploring different experiences of embodiment, inequality and care.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. You will develop a critical knowledge of key theories and approaches in the sociology of the body linked to debates about inequality, difference, and care as features of social worlds.

2. You will be able to draw upon relevant Sociological theory to understand and analyse documents that convey stories of bodily positioning, practices, and performances.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1. You will be able to select the appropriate tools for analysing and understanding the ways people narrate and tell stories about the body.

2. You will be able to critically handle a range of documents and reflect on their significance for understanding bodies in social worlds.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
1. You will develop a critical understanding of diverse groups’ embodied lives and experiences informed by ethical insight into how social relations construct diverse bodies of value

How will I be assessed?

The assessment combines
i) You will fashion your own document of the body by developing a zine or other creative form that provides a vehicle for your own reflections on your own embodied practice in relation to making academic knowledge (30% of the mark).
• MLOS met: KU 1, 2; IP: 1, 2; PVA: 1
ii) You will write one essay, drawing on documents of your choice to explore the way in which social worlds shape bodies (3000 words) (70% of the mark)
• MLOS met: KU 2; IP: 1, 2; PVA: 1





Module abstract

On this research rich module, you will work on topics relating to the body and embodiment, which will provide a lens into wider sociological concerns with inequality, difference, and care, associated with contemporary divisions of ‘race’, gender, class, disability, age and sexuality and the ranking of bodies along lines of appearance, fitness, form, and ability. You will be supported through interactive lectures and workshops that will make use of a creative, interpretative pedagogy, drawing on real world documents of bodily life to investigate diverse experiences of the body and embodiment, and the relationship between bodies and social worlds. Through exploring a range of theoretical perspective connected to experiences of the body, and through sociological dissections of carefully selected documents of bodily life – ranging from anonymised interview transcripts, personal narrative, documentary and film, fictional writing, and photography – you will explore how the organisation of social worlds impacts on how people come to live in/as human bodies. The assessment will allow to you engage with the topics of body and embodiment through writing sociologically about issues affecting how people experience the body. You will also reflect on the significance of what you are learning for your own practice and development as an embodied sociologist, enabling you to write reflexively on how your own embodied experiences of learning and writing sociologically about the body.

Course info

UCAS Code LM39

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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