Date of Award

12-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Advisor

May, Todd

Committee Member

Katz , Steven

Committee Member

Heifferon , Barbara

Committee Member

Nguyen Hung , Christina

Abstract

This work rethinks configurations of and relationships between bodies and prosthetics, emerging from a gap between three particular theoretical perspectives. The first perspective builds from Gender and Disability Studies theories; the second operates within the frame of post–humanity and cyborgean theories, specifically though Bernard Stiegler, Katherine Hayles, and Donna Haraway; the third is a practical/medical perspective, demonstrated through the experiences of people with amputations and medical prosthetics, as well as through the influence of medical visualization technologies. While offering productive and compelling means of complicating and deconstructing boundaries of bodies and prosthetics, these perspectives often operate independently; an integrative perspective provides new grounds from which to reconfigure prosthetized bodies.
From these grounds, this work examines social and historical anxieties about body–technology relationships, considering how binary oppositions of “natural” versus “technological” are constructed and discriminatorily employed against people with prosthetics. Through the story of Oscar Pistorius’ 2008 Olympic attempt, ideas of norms and norming are contextualized, historicized, and deconstructed. Metaphors of bodies as docile machines are problematized through examination of public representations of women with prosthetics.
This work situates bodies and prosthetics within historical perspectives created through the technological gaze of medical visualization technologies and nuclear medicine; the effects of ubiquitous and participatory communication technologies; the perception of the body as a malleable technology; and the effects of technologically–advanced prosthetics. Working particularly from the theories of Maurice Merleau–Ponty, Michel Foucault, and Georges Canguilhem, this work posits a new epistemology of the prosthetized body as a historically–situated phenomenological somatechnic.

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