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This book provides the most concise, accessible account yet available of modern Western cultural and social explorations of other forms or aspects of life that are devalued or coded as unacceptable, even unthinkable, in the modern ethos. After discussing modernity as a cultural and political project associated with notions of 'progress' and the shaping of body experiences through the 'civilizing' of behaviour, the author describes how the body seeks to go beyond the conventional - and characteristically male-oriented - pieties of modern 'rationality' to uncover these 'other' dimensions, involving the carnivalesque, the 'primitive', madness, nature, sexuality and aspects of the feminine. These are shown to hold a powerful fascination for the modern imagination, and to provide potent resources for transgression, conflict and nostalgia. Indeed, the transgression of the precarious boundaries that define the modern identity, the exploration of the taboos that separate 'us' and 'them', the normal and the pathological, are revealed to be as central to the modern experience of otherness as the endless attempts to shore up and defend these boundaries.
Transgressing the Modern will prove an invaluable guide to the roots of the contemporary experience of cultural crisis, and for situating current debates over the postcolonial and a possible shift into a 'postmodern' age of cyborgs, aliens and hybrids. The book is written in a lively and approachable style, yet does not shirk theoretical issues, and is ideal for students and researchers in cultural studies, sociology, and across the humanities and social sciences.
John Jervis has taught extensively in the areas of Sociology, Social Anthropology, and Cultural Studies, at the University of Kent at Canterbury. His previous book,
Exploring the Modern (1999) is also published by Blackwell Publishers.