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Title: 'Little vast rooms of undoing' : exploring identity and embodiment through public toilet spaces
Author: Blumenthal, Dara
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is an exploration of sensory-embodied identity grounded in an empirical study of self-body experience of public toilet spaces, through which I challenge dominant conceptions of the 'individual' put forth by the Western philosophical tradition, social constructionism, and post-structuralism. Those conceptions of the self-body which tend to reproduce Cartesian dualism and apply reductionist, representationalist understandings to materiality, typically render the body into passive flesh, rending a materiality in need of constant shaping, management, and control. To challenge these understandings, I put forth a posthumanist, material-feminist approach which takes the body not as the mere basis of the self, but rather the SOUlce of all experience, knowledge, and understanding. Rather than matter being understood as a stable thing or object directed by the rational subject or social power, this approach recognises the active, ongoing unfinished nature of materiality. This exploration is organised through Norbert Elias' concepts of homo clausus (closed person) and homines aperti (people opened) as frameworks for elucidating the experiences of individuals and introduces a Latin neologism - corpora infinita (boundless bodies) - to push his processoriented sociology further via a posthumanist-materialist lens. The empirical study focuses explicitly on individual experiences of sensory-embodiment through a universal daily practice within society: public toileting. My empirical research focuses on sex-segregated public toileting experiences of men, women, gender non-conforming, and trans individuals who have a range of sexual identities. The investigation takes the form of forty-five semistructured interviews and over two hundred 'toilet use' surveys, completed in New York City, London, and South East England. Through a meditation on socially contingent toileting habits and associated emotions, I suggest that experiences within public toilets expose the fissures of individual identity construction and understanding according to both homo clausus and homines aperti identity structures and, in doing so, reveal an opportunity for the reconceptualization of embodied identity as corpus infinitum.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available