Informations and abstract
The emergence of the sociology of the body has been one of the most important developments in contemporary sociology, but its scope and character are still open to considerable controversy. In particular, there is widespread disagreement about how to understand "embodiment" and "the body" as central concepts, and this disagreement emerges characteristically around questions of epistemology, namely the so-called perspective of social constructionism. Our argument is that these disputes cannot be resolved simply at the level of theory construction without proper empirical research, especially qualitative sociology and ethnography. This paper, drawing upon a study of injury and retirement among ballet dancers at the Royal Ballet, contributes to the sociology of the body through a critical commentary on social constructionism. Although ballet injury can terminate a dancing career, injuries are accepted as an inevitable part of the vocation. We observe that injury is mediated through the social bonding of dancers into a professional ballet company, where injury is accepted as a sign of vocational "habitus", and we suggest that this Durkheimian "collective effervescence" gives a novel meaning to the idea of a "corps de ballet". These research observations on ballet are analysed within the sociological framework of Pierre Bourdieu in order to grasp the importance of ballet as practice and of the Company as a special occupational habitus. These sociological reflections on the necessary embodiment of dance provide a basis for a far-reaching critique of the application of the idea of "textuality" to the interpretation of dance and provide support for a pragmatist aesthetic of performance.