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The word “soul” has been commonly associated with African-Americans at least since W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk. For example, soul music, soul food, James Brown as Soul Brother #1 … I would imagine that the popular equation of “black” and “soul” has been, on the whole, good for blacks.
But in recent years, black intellectuals, most famously Ta-Nehisi Coates, have started to refer to African-Americans instead as “bodies:” e.g., “marginalized bodies.”
Where does this affectation come from?
A reader suggests:
I am over-familiar with the rhetoric of “bodies.” It comes mainly from Michel Foucault, originator of so much left-Marxist patois in the last 50 years. In his Discipline and Punish, he explored the notion that state power, mainly through prisons, hospitals, and the military, actually created modern consciousness through control of the body.
So, put in plain English, he hypothesized that what most people would call the soul, something peculiar to humans which is the locus of the voice of conscience and self-consciousness, is actually an effect of, for example, being forced to sit still in class, having worry about whether your classmate is looking over your shoulder, etc. Putting it this way makes the whole notion rather absurd, but it is indeed the idea campus activists are referring to when they talk about “bodies” and not “souls.”
Foucault was a bright guy, but as a homosexual sadomasochist, his obsession with “bodies” had unfortunate consequences for his health. From Wikipedia:
When in California, Foucault spent many evenings in the gay scene of the San Francisco Bay Area, frequenting sado-masochistic bathhouses, engaging in sexual intercourse with other patrons. He would praise sado-masochistic activity in interviews with the gay press, describing it as “the real creation of new possibilities of pleasure, which people had no idea about previously.” Through this sexual activity, Foucault contracted HIV, which eventually developed into AIDS.
It turned out that nature wasn’t entirely socially constructed after all, and he died from the HIV virus in 1984.