The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future

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Prosthesis — pointing to an addition, replacement, extension,enhancement — has become something of an all-purpose metaphor for the interactions of body and technology. Concerned with cybernetics, transplant technology,artificial intelligence, and virtual reality, among other cultural and scientific developments, "the prosthetic" conjures up a posthuman condition. In response to this, the 13 original essays in The Prosthetic Impulse reassert the phenomenological, material, and embodied nature of prosthesis without dismissing its metaphorical potential. They examine the historical and conceptual edge between the human and the posthuman — between flesh and its accompanying technologies. Rather than tracking the transformation of one into the other, these essays address this borderline and the delicate dialectical situation in which it places us.

Concentrating on this edge, the collection demonstrates how the human has been technologized and technology humanized.The eclectic approach taken by The Prosthetic Impulse draws on disciplines ranging from gender studies, philosophy, and visual culture to psychoanalysis, cybertheory, and phenomenology. The first section,"Carnality: Between Phenomenology and the Biocultural" concentrates on the organic,describing a body that, by its very materiality, is always and already prosthetic.

The second section, "Assembling: Internalization. Externalization," considers the technological qualities and peculiarities of prosthesis, raising questions about the ways in which film, photography, AI, drawing, and literature — representation itself — can be situated within the framework of a prosthetic discourse. Taken together, the essays suggest that prosthesis is material as well as metaphorical.

"It is just a matter of pondering where the inelegant edges lie," the editors write,"and living them most wonderfully."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Intriguing and delightful.... Together, these essays offer real insight into what means to be human in a pervasively mechanical world." The Futurist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262693615
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Marquard Smith is Director of the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture,University of Westminster, London. He is a Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Visual Culture.

Joanne Morra is Senior Lecturer in Historical and Theoretical Studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London. She is principal editor of the journal of visual culture.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 A leg to stand on : prosthetics, metaphor, and materiality 17
3 The vulnerable articulate : James Gillingham, Aimee Mullins, and Matthew Barney 43
4 The physiology of art 73
5 Stumped by genes : Lingua Gataca, DNA, and prosthesis 91
6 The bug's body : a disappearing act 107
7 On the subject of neural and sensory prostheses 125
8 Disability, masculinity, and the prosthetics of war, 1945 to 2005 155
9 Naked 187
10 Visual technologies as cognitive prostheses : a short history of the externalization of the mind 203
11 Prosthetists at 33 1/3 221
12 Technology or the discourse of speed 237
13 Drawing machine : working through the materiality of Rauschenberg's Dante and Derrida's Freud 265
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