The prominence of the body in popular culture has prompted intense academic interest in recent decades. Seeking to overturn a naturalistic approach to the body as a biological given, this broad literature redefines the body as a sociocultural and historical phenomenon. Within anthropology, two primary theoretical orientations toward the body have emerged: the body as “symbol” and the body as “agent.” This review article provides an overview of these dominant theoretical approaches in the context of recent scholarship on body ideals and, in particular, the body beautiful. The review explores also the body beautiful as a primary site for the construction and performance of gender, and specifically of femininity, with examples drawn from the abundant literature on women's bodies.

Keyword(s): beautyembodimentfemininitygender

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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