6. Shame, morality and the vulnerable self visibility and authenticity

Federica Manfredi, federicamanfredi@hotmail.fr
Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon

Biography: Federica Manfredi is PhD candidate in Medical anthropology at the Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon. She is exploring body suspensions and other meanings associated to non-therapeutic and long-term body interventions through experimental qualitative methods, including online ethnography and the manipulation of materials as strategy to implement logo-centric logics. She is member of the research project Excel – The Pursuit of Excellence, where she promotes dissemination activities, artistic expositions and the participative laboratory series “The Hacked Barbie”. Member of EASA, SIEF, APA and SIAA, she is interested in the anthropology of the body, pain, shame and stigma, but also projects of pleasure and resistance through the body.

Alvaro Jarrin, ajarrin@holycross.edu
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross

Dr. Alvaro Jarrín received their Ph.D. from Duke University and they are Associate Professor of Anthropology at College of the Holy Cross. Their research explores the imbrication of medicine, the body and inequality in Brazil, with foci on plastic surgery, genomics and gender nonconforming activism.  They are the author of The Biopolitics of Beauty: Cosmetic Citizenship and Affective Capital in Brazil (University of California Press), and the co-editor of two collections of essays: Remaking the Human: Cosmetic Technologies of Body Repair, Reshaping and Replacement (Berghahn Books), and Precarious Democracy: Ethnographies of Hope, Despair and Resistance in Brazil (Rutgers University Press).

Shame is a powerful emotion entirely shaped by cultural norms (Abu-Lughod and Lutz, 2005; Rosenwein, 2016). Social practices and non-normative bodies are considered shameful when they violate the values and codes of conduct related to the culture(s) where people are embedded. The social group uses shame to delegitimize certain behaviors or bodies, and any associated subjectivities and senses of self (Goffman 1956). There might be a hegemonic, biopolitical impulse to imposing more normative behaviors, bodies (Foucault 1990), aesthetic norms (Jarrin 2017) and feelings (Schuller 2017). While some social actors might try to pursue conformity, others might respond with defiance, and attempts to “denaturalize, queer or hack bodily ideals” (Jarrin and Pussetti, 2021: 3). Even those who engage in rebellion towards existing social norms, however, might still feel vulnerable or uncomfortable in displaying non-normative bodies or behaviors to undiscriminating audiences: strategies of invisibility and authenticity can hence appear as survival mechanisms (Butler 2004). Emotions like shame can also be productive, because they can become part of an “emotional habitus” that motivates social movements and seeks to transform shame into pride or anger (Gould 2009; Almeida 2019).

Shame is a very broad form of affect that can be related to income levels, sexuality, gender, aging, nationality, race, body shapes, hobbies, working states and professions, health or sickness conditions, disabilities and relations with humans, objects, animals or spiritual beliefs. This panel aims to deconstruct the concept of shame, and the related emotions and strategies of (in)visibility and authenticity that social actors engage in when they feel shame or they dissent against socially imposed forms of shame. The panel calls for ethnographic researches looking at behaviors or non-normative bodies considered “shameful” in society, and that are at the border of a sanctioned morality or related to social forms of delegitimization. 

Our panel asks the following questions: What does characterize shameful experiences? How does shame render individuals vulnerable or insecure? What strategies of (in)visibility are elaborated according to imagined audiences, online and offline? How do self-perceptions of “authenticity” shape the desire to rebel or dissent against forms of shame? What strategies or body projects are put in place to protect or promote the self? How do identity-making processes provoke and deal with the experience of “being ashamed of something”? How do researchers carry out ethical fieldwork when working with conditions considered shameful? What methodologies maximize the goal to deconstruct shame? 

Bibliographical references
Abu-Lughod, Lila and Catherine Lutz. 2005. “Emozione, discorso e politiche della vita quotidiana”. Antropologia 6: 15-35.

Almeida, Heloisa Buarque de. 2019. “From Shame to Visibility: Hashtag Feminism and Sexual Violence in Brazil.” Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad 33: 19-41.

Butler, Judith. 2004. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge.

Goffman, Erving. 1956. “Embarrassment and Social Organization.” American Journal of Sociology 62 (3): 264-271.

Gould, Deborah B. 2009. Moving Politics. Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1990. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. New York: Vintage.

Jarrin, Alvaro. 2017. The Biopolitics of Beauty: Cosmetic Citizenship and Affective Capital in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jarrin, Alvaro, and Chiara Pussetti. 2021. Remaking the Human. Cosmetic Technologies of Body Repair, Reshaping and Replacement. New York, Berghanhn Books.

Rosenwein, Barbara H. 2016. Generations of Feeling. A History of Emotions, 600–1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schuller, Kyla. 2017. The Biopolitics of Feelings: Race, Sex and Science in the Nineteenth Century. Durham: Duke University Press

Keywords: shame, morality, vulnerability, emotion, authenticity, invisibility 

Sub-disciplines: anthropology of the body, mobility studies, beauty studies, medical anthropology.

Lascia un commento

Il tuo indirizzo email non sarà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *