11.30  Acting on the Body: Heritage as a Governing Strategy for Disciplining the Female Body in Twentieth-Century Iceland

9:00, lundi 6 juin 2016 (30 minutes)

The title of the paper refers to Tony Bennett’s article “Acting on the social” and his employment of the Foucauldian notion of governmentality exploring culture as reformative discourse and strategy. Taking Bennett’s lead in this respect, this paper will tackle cultural heritage as a governing strategy. It will discuss the emerging notion of national Icelandic heritage in early twentieth century by way of Rodney Harrison’s (2013) formulation of heritage as “an active process of assembling a series of objects, places and practices [that is held] up as a mirror to the present” and a practice closely associated with specific sets of values that are deemed essential for the future survival of the nation. From that standpoint the paper will illustrate how heritage became a vehicle for an internal civilizing mission in Icelandic society during the first decades of the twentieth century. In particular the focus will be on how conceptualizations of heritage were aimed at generating transformative effects on the bodily hexis (as defined in Bourdieu’s earlier writings) of the local population, and women in particular. The study will scrutinize cases where the female body and the conduct of women became target of reformative discourse and practices; instances where conceptualizations of innate national cultural heritage became central in cementing ideas of women’s role in preserving the nation’s cultural and moral integrity. Thus the paper will entertain the idea that local heritage regimes were designed to have future oriented effects on everyday practices in bringing about particular regulation of bodies and manipulating female conduct and perceptions of appearance.

University of Iceland
Assistant professor