This investigation of power and the body is a brilliantly original account of the nature of force as it functions in religious rituals, sorcery, political relations, and other social domains. Laying the foundation for an “anthropology of forces,” it is crucial reading for anyone interested in how bodies and power circulate in a range of human contexts and cultures.
For José Gil the body, with its capacity to translate forces into signs, is the source of power. Analyzing the language of mime and gestures, comparing magical cures to psychiatric ones, contrasting the flayed body of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” with the anatomical body in Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica, he develops a typology of metamorphoses of the body as they correspond to systems of signs.
The body also has a history, which has its effects on the formation of political powers. Why, for instance, did the first state organizations create an image of power concentrated in “the body of the king”? In an examination of the differences between so-called primitive societies and state societies, Gil traces the birth of the image of the body, and of its transformations as a political figure.
A major intervention that marks the first appearance of Gil’s work in English, Metamorphoses of the Body gives us an entirely new way of looking at relationships between bodies, forces, politics, and people.
“Metamorphoses of the Body is a brilliant and original analysis of the political and ideological status of the body as it relates to the empowerment and the constitution of the modern state. For Gil, if one is vigilant, one realizes that at the very heart of the problem of the nature of power, one is always confronted with the primeval power of the human body, with its intrinsic, indomitable energy.” – Réda Bensmaïa, Brown University