Psychosocial and Symbolic Dimensions of the Breast Explored through a Visual Matrix
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionGripsrud, B.H., Ramvi, E., Froggett, L. et al. (2018) Psychosocial and Symbolic Dimensions of the Breast Explored through a Visual Matrix. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 26 (3), 210-229. 10.1080/08038740.2018.1482958
This article explores knowledge about the breast in lived experience, addressing a gap in empirical research on a highly gendered cultural trope and embodied organ. We present findings from a study that used a free-associative psychosocial method—the Visual Matrix—in order to stimulate expressions of tacit aspects of the breast, aiming to generate an understanding of relations between embodied and enculturated experiences. Our data revealed how an aesthetic of the grotesque in one matrix allowed the mainly female group to use humour as a “creative psychic defence” against culturally normative and idealized aspects of the breast. This was expressed through symbolizations, affectively delivered in an exuberant mode, emphasizing the breast‘s potency and its potential for nurturance and “weaponization”. Through this feminine poetic, life and death became inseparable yet ambiguous dimensions of breasts. The breast’s life-affirming qualities included the sensual, the visceral, and the joyful—a material-semiotic knowing. This was incontrast to a second matrix, which expressed a more ambivalent and troubled response, and in which associations were weighted towards the spectacular breast of an ocular-centric culture that privileges hetero-masculine looking. We discuss differences between the two matrices in terms of psychosocial tensions between embodied and enculturated experiences.