Introduction
The Social Brain and Corporeal Politics
PRELUDE
The brain matters. How it matters in social thought is one concern of this
book. How it literally matters, or becomes itself, is another. These questions of
knowing and being, and of discourse and biology, are interrelated. We need to
understand “how meanings and bodies get made,” as Donna Haraway wrote,
“not to deny meanings and bodies, but in order to build meanings and bodies
that have a chance for life” (1988, 580). This book grasps meanings and bodies
together. The meanings include ideas about nature and culture, universality
and difference, normalcy and pathology, plasticity and transformation, soci-
ality and kinship, power and inequality, to name a few. The bodies are bodies
with brains: neurobiological bodies, bodies conceived in relation to the central
nervous system, to neurons, neurotransmitters, and brain regions. They are
also minded bodies, whose psychic capacities are material and physical as well
as phenomenological and situated. They are social bodies, too, which get made
not only in evolutionary time but also in the immediate past and present, in
relation to the other bodies (and things) with which they coexist. The task is
to understand their making and meaning, without denying them realness.
The task is also to pay attention to what “chances for life” are at stake in our
attempts to understand and manage them.
The Social Brain
The brain is now a social problem in at least two senses. The brain is con-
ceived as the biological ground for the self and social life, as both consti-
tuting the mind and underpinning intersubjectivity. This has encouraged
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