Bodies in Public Spaces: Questioning the Boundary Between the Public and the Private

Roupa, Vicky (2022). Bodies in Public Spaces: Questioning the Boundary Between the Public and the Private. Critical Horizons A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14409917.2022.2104081

Abstract

This paper examines the connection between politics and public space at a time when photography and the new media have put the classical distinction between the public and the private into question. My focus is on the body which, according to Hannah Arendt and the classical philosophers, is the most private thing there is. Drawing on the work of Weimar photojournalist Erich Salomon – who was among the first to infiltrate the spaces where political talks were held and decisions taken – I argue for an understanding of the body as an aesthetic object and a site where public and private criss-cross and intersect. The body in photography leads me to the final part of the paper where I trace the figuring of the body in the texts of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, and argue that far from being a recent phenomenon, the aestheticisation of politics is already at work in the tradition that celebrates deliberation and the public use of reason.

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