Cyborgs and Clones: Production and Reproduction of Posthuman Figures in Contemporary British Literature
by Michele Braun
As a replacement for, or supplement to, the human, the posthuman produces figures that highlight the socially constructed nature of human identity. This dissertation undertakes to demonstrate how several British novelists have used the concept as a supplement or replacement for the human in order to re-imagine the experience of the outsider. It argues that the importance of the posthuman is not its portrayal of a potential utopian or dystopian future or change for the human, but in how the posthuman draws our attention back to how we define ourselves as "human." Fictional posthuman figures differ from the human both in degree (like clones, whose origins differ from the ordinary) and in kind (like cyborgs, whose prosthetics often mark them as radically different from ordinary humans). Yet these posthumans often act in ways indistinguishable from everyday humans, suggesting that the idea of a natural human is a social construction. This dissertation argues that there are three antinomies that inform these posthuman narratives: the organic and the mechanical, the body and human consciousness, and genetic determinism and cosmopolitan multiplicity. Through these antinomies, posthuman figures function as metaphors or allegories for colonial and racial tensions. More often than not, the posthuman other is marginalized, inviting figurative comparisons with more traditional marginalized groups, so that the narratives of conflict with, or oppression by, a dominant group can act to represent the conflicts over multiculturalism and belonging that continue to plague post-imperial Britain in the twenty-first century. The dissertation applies the three antimonies to texts by Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Ken MacLeod, Amitav Ghosh and Justina Robson, exploring how those antinomies play out in diverse genres such as science fiction, realist fiction and magical realism to suggest that the posthuman can find expression in a wide range of literatures.
Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, And the Culture of Consumption. (Reviews) (Book Review)
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Rob Latham. Consuming Youth: Vampires, Cyborgs, and the Culture of Consumption. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002. 321 pp. $22.00 * Vampire bloodlust is objectifying and exploitative, but it also makes promises. It promises youth and the capacities we associate with youth: vigor, strength, empowerment. It promises, in other words, to amplify agency itself. In Consuming Youth, Rob Latham develops a sophisticated, unrelentingly dialectical analysis of the complex relation between youth and consumerism in the context of U.S. capitalist development since World War II in general, and since the seventies in particular. The book foregrounds the ways in which "progressive possibilities and exploitative realities are mutually implicated in an overarching system of commodity production and exchange" (218). Latham draws on Marx's arguments about how technological apparatuses developed according to a capitalist logic operate in a profoundly contradictory fashion vis-a-vis the human population. If Marx's primary technological example is the nineteenth-century industrial factory, Latham's are recent innovations marketed for consumption by youth--"pri marily electronic ones (videogames, television, music videos, computers, etc.)" (4). Taking his cue from the metaphorics of Capital, he identifies the two sides of capitalism's contradictory social and historical tendencies in terms of a vampiric logic on the one hand and a cyborg logic on the other. Marx frames technological innovation as a direct result, amplification, and objectification of human labor, a process which takes a form under capitalism Latham characterizes as "both prosthetic and predatory" (3). Technological apparatuses as they operate within capitalism simultaneously amplify human labor power and dominate it. Taking on an apparent life of their own, they operate vampirically, as "undead" labor which perpetually absorbs--sucks--the energy from living labor. Latham insists at the same time, however, on "Marx's dialectical conception of industrial automation as at once the 'undead' objectification of human labor and the protocybernetic enhancement of its historical capacity" (138). The contempo rary trope of the cyborg, in other words--the prosthetic merging of human and machine--is already implicit in Marx's narrative of the industrial factory's extension and objectification of labor. The cyborg represents technological innovation's capacity to expand human agency, to liberate the human population from the realm of necessity, a potential made available but never realized within the exploitative, vampiric social relations capitalism enforces. The laborer becomes, in Latham's words, "a cybernetic organism--a cyborg--prosthetically linked to a despotic, ravening apparatus" (3). The "vampire-cyborg," the book's central figure, is thus "a perfect dialectical image in which unprecedented technological progress and primitive, inhuman exploitation coexist in a structure of profound contradiction" (4, original emphasis).
Technophobia and the Cyborg Menace: Buffy Summers As Neo-Human Avatar (Critical Essay)
by Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
DURING THE POST-COLD WAR 1990S, AMERICAN PARANOIA SHIFTED AWAY from national and individual threats to fear of US governmental conspiracies and technology in general. Popular television shows like Chris Carter's The X-Files (1993-2002) recast the foreign "other" as the literally alien and emphasized the potential destructive power of both shadow-government agencies and new, subversive forms of technology and science. This climate also produced Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), a television program that portrayed the hostile "others" as vampires and demons and, especially during the fourth season, showed the government to be an irresponsible, militaristic threat. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a technologically inept teenage girl with supernatural powers, illustrated the need for contemporary, fin-de-siecle Americans to confront the possible hazards of science by re-embracing spiritualism and humanism. These contemporary narratives should therefore be read as examples of a long-established dialectical tradition. For example, in the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, military technology stands in on the one side for the rebellious figure of Lucifer. As depicted by John Milton in Paradise Lost (1667), Lucifer, who was created by God as a potential prince and possible savior of humankind, betrayed his intended role, turning against his creator and pursuing instead a misguided path towards domination. On the other side of the dichotomy stands Buffy, the "Chosen One," a clear manifestation of Christ because she lives as a mortal human despite her preternatural gifts and abilities. In addition, Buffy works to maintain balance and stability, to challenge those who would defy the plans of higher authority and upset the natural order. Whedon thus uses his series to present viewers with an updated version of two ancient and oppositional archetypes: the Promethean betrayal of humanity by the very thing designed to aid them, and the necessary arrival of a chosen individual to harness ancient energies for the greater good.
Cyborg Love, Critical Mass and Possibility: Enacting the Right to the City
by Joshua James Miller
This work was inspired by the everyday struggle of bicyclists to gain the respect of fellow road users. The focus of this dissertation is one manifestation of that struggle: Critical Mass, the global phenomenon that is a demonstration and celebration of bicycling. Critical Mass is not an organization; it is an informal alliance, yet it has grown into a global network reaching more than 350 cities globally. Critical Mass has important implications at both urban and global scales. The emergent properties and pervasive spread of Critical Mass has made the phenomenon globally relevant. The methods used to conduct this research were participant observation, documentary photography, archival research and political theory. The case study fieldwork was conducted in Seattle, Washington while other research and theoretical work pertains to the global phenomenon of Critical Mass. The major theoretical frameworks re-synthesized in this work are those of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Henri Lefebvre and Francisco Varela. These theories are about hermeneutical interpretation, the complexity of space, the right to the city, enactivist theory, emergent properties and cognition as a bringing-forth in the world through perceptually-guided action. Dissent, emergence and struggle are three central themes of Critical Mass in Seattle and as a global network. Critical Mass embodies a non-representational epistemology; there is no fixed meaning of Critical Mass and the various interpretations by various observers are contested and negotiated. Policy makers, planners and engineers are well-advised to observe the emergent properties enacted by Critical Mass and consider the importance of planning for spontaneous play and dissent.
My, Is That Cyborg a Little Bit Queer?
by Journal of International Women's Studies
Abstract This piece of work is a response to the following question: 'Critically assess the importance, or otherwise, of Donna Haraway's "manifesto" for early twenty-first century feminists'. Based on Stein and Plummer's outline of queer theory in their essay, "I can't even think straight": "Queer" Theory and the Missing Sexual Revolution in Sociology (Stein and Plummer 1996). This piece compares and contrasts different aspects of queer theory (sociological, ideological, political and ontological) with Haraway's 'manifesto' in order to investigate the possibilities of a cyberqueer theory: to 'queer' (as a verb) the 'cyborg'. Whilst attempting to interrelate both the notion of the 'cyborg' and 'queer theory', this piece explores feminist issues concerning gender, sexuality, identity, representation and the body. Ultimately, the piece argues how feminism might benefit from cyberqueer ideas in rethinking through these issues whilst being aware of its material ramifications.
Schizophrenics & Cyborgs: Interrogating 'Posthuman(Ist)' Subjectivity (Critical Essay)
by Traffic (Parkville)
The schizophrenic and the cyborg are postmodern icons who made their respective debuts in the Anglo-American academy via two seminal articles of the mid-1980s: Fredric Jameson's 'Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' and Donna Haraway's 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s'. Each pushes the boundaries of subjectivity beyond our familiar binary oppositions of self/other, sane/insane, human/machine; the schizophrenic as a metaphor for radically and irreconcilably fragmented subjectivity, the cyborg as a synthetic hybrid of organism and machine. By interrogating Jameson and Haraway's analyses of the postmodern and its crises, this article proposes a critical re-evaluation of the schizophrenic and the cyborg as models for contemporary subjectivity. 'Subjects' were once synonymous with self-determining human beings. Today the term is widely used in the humanities to indicate that selfhood is not an expression of a fixed or original human nature, rather, as a function of specific historical and cultural contexts, it is constantly 'in process'. The construction and deconstruction of the subject, its relationship to a radical politics, and its permutations in postmodernity are all important topics in contemporary critical theory. (2) Two canonical Marxist/Socialist analyses of the postmodern, published in the mid-1980s, continue to influence debates about new forms of subjectivity: Fredric Jameson's 'Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', (3) and Donna Haraway's 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s'. (4) Jameson and Haraway invest previously peripheral figures with a potent symbolic function: the schizophrenic (5) and the cyborg (6) are heralded as exemplary postmodern subjects. Both articles have been widely anthologised as key contributions to contemporary critical theory, but despite their overlapping concerns, Jameson and Haraway have not been construed as interlocutors. Similarly, the schizophrenic and the cyborg are concepts well circulated in cultural studies but seldom, if ever, critically compared. This article confronts the conceptual boundary separating the schizophrenic and the cyborg by examining what is at stake in Jameson and Haraway's visions of posthuman(ist) subjectivity: What 'crisis' demands that modern subjectivity be reconceptualised? What political possibilities are imagined through the schizophrenic and the cyborg? Can we conceive of a relationship between them? Finally, how can such an analysis prompt us to re-evaluate the significance and efficacy of boundaries in the representation of postmodern subjectivity?