Bodyscapes, biology, and heteronormativity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The term bodyscape encourages thinking about representation of bodies at multiple scales-from different bodies as they move through space to the microlandscape of individual bodily differences. A hegemonic bodyscape's representations tend to idealize and essentialize bodies' differences to reinforce normative ideas about a society's socioeconomic organization. But, a dominant bodyscape is never absolute. Bodyscapes that depart from or subvert hegemonic representations may simultaneously exist. In Western society, the biomedical bodyscape predominates in scientific understandings of bodily difference. Its representation of sex differences conveys heteronormative notions about gender and sexuality. Because the biomedical bodyscape frames studies of ancient bodies, investigators need recognize how their considerations of labor divisions, familial organization, and reproduction may situate modern (hetero)sexist representations deep within antiquity. To innovate analyses of socioeconomic relations, queer theory allows scholars to interrogate human nature. Doing so produces alternative bodyscapes that represent the diversity of past peoples' social and sexual lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-516
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009


  • Bioarchaeology
  • Bodyscape
  • Heteronormativity
  • Paleoanthropology
  • Queer theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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