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Week 9: Body

Tutor: Dr Claire Shaw

In the twentieth century, advances in science and technology fundamentally changed understandings of the human body. Advanced prosthetics promised to ‘cure’ disabled bodies; the advent of the internet and the discipline of neuroscience framed our understanding of the human brain, and science fiction writers began to shape dreams of cyborg selves and ultimate immortality. This seminar examines the history of this developing interface between technology and the body, and explores how it changed – and is still changing – societies and selves.

Seminar Questions

  • How did advances in prosthetic technologies shape the ways in which bodies were understood
  • What role does science fiction and other forms of culture play in shaping how these objects are viewed?
  • How might we understand the politicisation of certain types of assistive technology, such as cochlear implants?
  • How should we write the history of these objects? What role should individual experiences play?

Essential Reading

Ott, Katherine, David Serlin and Stephen Mihm, eds. Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics (New York: NYU Press, 2002), Introduction and Chapter 1.

Ott, Katherine, ‘Material Culture, Technology and the Body’ in The Oxford Handbook of Disability History, ed. Michael Rembis, Catherine Kudlick and Katherine Ott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Haraway, Donna, ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs’, in The Haraway Reader (London: Routledge, 2004).

Mills, Mara, ‘Do Signals Have Politics? Inscribing Abilities in Cochlear Implants’ in The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Further Reading
“Prosthetics,” in Keywords in Disability, ed. David Serlin, Rachel Adams and Benjamin Reiss (New York: New York University Press, 2015):140-143.

Burch, Susan and Michael Rembis, eds., Disability Histories (University of Illinois Press, 2014): 119-135.

Barfield, Woodrow, Cyber-Humans: Our Future with Machines (Springer, 2015)

Biro, Matthew, The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (U of Minnesota Press, 2009)

Brown, J., Cyborgs in Latin America (Springer, 2010)

Corker, Mairian, and Tom Shakespeare, Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002)

‘David Serlin’ <> [accessed 4 April 2018]

Goodley, D., B. Hughes, and L. Davis, Disability and Social Theory: New Developments and Directions (Springer, 2012)

Graham, Elaine L., Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture (Manchester University Press, 2002)

Gray, Chris Hables, Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age (Routledge, 2000)

Grebowicz, Margret, and Helen Merrick, Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway (Columbia University Press, 2013)

Meade, Teresa, and David Serlin, Disability and History (Duke University Press, 2005)

results, search, The Biopolitics of Stalinism: Ideology and Life in Soviet Socialism, First Edition edition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

Serlin, David, Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America (University of Chicago Press, 2004)

Smith, Marquard, The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future (Cambridge London: MIT Press, 2007)

Snyder, Sharon L., and David T. Mitchell, Cultural Locations of Disability (University of Chicago Press, 2010)

Turner, David M., and Kevin Stagg, Social Histories of Disability and Deformity: Bodies, Images and Experiences (Routledge, 2006)

Zylinska, Joanna, The Cyborg Experiments: The Extensions of the Body in the Media Age (A&C Black, 2002)