CCGL9064 Global Issues

Body Politics: Local Worlds, Global Processes

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘The Quest for a Meaningful Life’ / ‘Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

How do socioeconomic inequalities affect our bodies? In what ways do governments, corporations, and institutions regulate and control bodies and populations? How are new technologies transforming the ways in which we understand our bodies? How have relationships among mind, body, and society changed across cultures and historical periods? This course addresses these important questions by exploring how bodies are produced, portrayed, and contested in different times and places across the globe. We will challenge the preconception that bodies are natural and pregiven entities which exist outside of the forces of culture, politics, and history. We will use the body as a lens for exploring the intersections of local worlds and global processes, investigating how our daily lives are shaped by the forces of culture and power. Lectures and tutorials will draw upon diverse multimedia sources including movies, music, advertisements, exercise trackers, and participant observation. Creative assignments will empower students to reflect upon both their own and others’ embodied experiences, via blogging about individual bodily practices and collectively curating an exhibition on visual representations of bodies.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyze the ways in which different kinds of bodies are constructed, regulated, contested, and portrayed across a range of institutions, cultures, and practices.
  2. Generate their own thoughts and arguments about issues around contemporary body politics, articulating these ideas both verbally and in writing.
  3. Connect their own embodied experience with global issues, gaining greater self-understanding of how their own embodiment is shaped by broader cultural processes and structures of power.
  4. Articulate how forms of embodied experience differ cross-culturally.
  5. Create multimedia exhibitions and communicate ideas both on- and off-line through collective enterprise.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 36
Group project 20
Assessment: Reading responses 10
Assessment: Blog participation 12
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 12
Total: 122

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Lecture and tutorial participation 20
Individual mini-project 30
Reading responses 20
Group project and presentation 30

Required Reading

  • Aizura, A. (2009). Where Health and Beauty Meet: Femininity and Racialisation in Thai Cosmetic Surgery Clinics. Asian Studies Review, 33(3), 303-317. [Article]
  • Bell, C. (2008). Bigger, Stronger, Faster. [Film]
  • Greenhalgh, S. (1994). Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China. American Ethnologist, 21(1), 3-30. [Article]
  • Kourlas, G. (2020, March 31). How We Use our Bodies to Navigate a Pandemic. The New York Times. [Article]
  • Martin, E. (1991). The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles. Signs, 16(3), 485-501. [Article]
  • Miner, H. (1956). Body Ritual Among the Nacirema. American Anthropologist, 58(3), 503-7. [Article]
  • Murphy, R. (1990). The Damaged Self. W. W. Norton. [Chap. 4 (pp.85-111) ‘The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled’]
  • Nevins, A. B. (2018). Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie. [Film]
  • Quinn, E. (n. d.). The Way We Think About Biological Sex is Wrong. [TED Talk]
  • Rubin, H. -A., & Shapiro, D. A. (2005). Murderball. [Film]
  • Schüll, N. D. (2016). Your Quantified Body, Your Quantified Self. WNYC Studios. From https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/quantified-bodies [Podcast]
  • Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. [Book chapter]
  • Watters, E. (2017). The Organ Detective: A Career Spent Uncovering a Hidden Global Market in Human Flesh. Pacific Standard. From https://psmag.com/economics/nancy-scheper-hughes-black-market-trade-organ-detective-84351 [Article]

Brief news articles on current events such as COVID-19, organ trafficking, doping in sports, birth control, and racial discrimination in Hong Kong [To be announced]


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr P.P. Song
Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 0030
Email: songp@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr P.P. Song
Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 0030
Email: songp@hku.hk
Dr L.A. Meek
Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7937
Email: lameek@hku.hk