Franziska Bork-Petersen – Københavns Universitet

10. december: Jagten på den perfekte krop

KU's Alumneforening har bedt forskere fra Københavns Universitet om at fortælle om deres aktuelle forskningsprojekter. Det er tilsammen blevet til de 24 låger i årets forskningsjulekalender, hvor du kan læse om alt fra juleflæsk til mediernes fremstilling af julen. I dagens låge fortæller Franziska Bork-Petersen fra Det Humanistiske Fakultet om sin forskning i utopier og kropsidealer.

A desire for a different, better way of being and living

Utopias articulate a desire for a different, better way of being and living. But while desirable, it is implied that utopias are impossible. I explore the paradoxical relation between utopianism and the human body. Questions that concern me in my current research project include: What are the differences between classic and contemporary utopias? And what is the body’s respective place in them? What effects have changes in everyday and artistic notions of ‘a better life’ had on utopian visions of the body? I argue that in practices such as bodybuilding and the use of cosmetic surgery, but also in performance and artistic contexts, bodies can themselves become sites for utopia. I investigate this contradiction: utopia encapsulates an impossible ideal – the body by its very existence is possible.

What a body looks like

While techniques of enhancing ‘what a body can do’ are a relevant aspect of my investigation, what seems at least as relevant in our current society is the enhancement of what a body looks like.

The fascination with transcending one’s own appearance by using makeup or garments that mould the body has persisted for centuries. With cosmetic surgery as with bodybuilding the – distinctly utopian – aim is not to achieve a fixed goal of ‘perfection’, but to strive after ever-changing new ideals.

What is the utopian implication of cutting and tucking bodies into ‘better versions of themselves’; of ‘puffing up’ and ‘hardening’ them into gargantuan shapes that make them almost unrecognisable as human? How do the notions of impossibility and self-creation play into this as factors of utopian fascination? In these examples, improving the body often happens independently from any real or perceived shortcoming/‘lack’. The care of the (physical) self continues way beyond the point where illness ends, and the utopian notion becomes one of human health, beauty and capacity as improvable ad infinitum.

Importantly, utopian propositions can also imply a critique of (some aspect of) contemporary life. This means that a turn to some notion of ‘the better’ or enhancement is not the only way in which radical change or difference from the current state of affairs is implicit in utopianism. The capacity to express critique and undermine the status quo, in art performances, for example, might well be what interests me the most in the relation between utopianism and human bodies.

Mød også

I morgen kan du i KU's forskningsjulekalender 2016 møde Asmus Leth Olsen, der fortæller om sin forskning i den offentlige sektor.