Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and The Ethnographic Collection

Margrit Shildrick: Embodied Discourses and Prosthetic Performativity

In the era of postmodernity, issues of the body, gender and power are increasingly raised by the non-normative performativity of the anomalous embodiment. I shall focus in particular on one aspect of such forms of embodiment that mobilises acute questions about the always ambivalent relationship between human subjects and biotechnology. Where in the past, the term prosthesis intended some material object that stood in for a lack that was seen as a negative but compensatable aspect of embodiment, the emphasis now is firmly on enhancement and supplement. For many disabled people, their interface with the world relies to a greater or lesser extent on the deployment of prostheses, no longer in the mode of rehabilitation to normative practices, but as a highly productive alternative that inevitably queers experience itself. Going further, the notion of prostheses can be transformed to encompass a Deleuzian understanding of embodiment as necessarily entailing assemblage -in both organic and non-organic forms – as a mode of existence that speaks to us all.