The History of Cyborg Body Politics

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The cyborg is a ubiquitous metaphor for the hybridization of humans and technologies. However, there is no single authentic type of cyborg. As Chris Hables Gray made clear in The Cyborg Handbook (1995) rigid categorisation of the cyborg has been problematic in view of the proliferation of multiple, miscellaneous cyborg forms. The range of human-technology couplings is extensive and as a consequence the term ‘cyborg' has come to possess an enduring status as a fluctuating aesthetic. Contemporary meanings of the cyborg are volatile with each use of the term potentially referencing separate and often dissimilar theoretical conceptions of the word, from Marxism to Feminism, from Postcolonial to Posthuman. Despite the absence of a single authoritative definition of cyborg, a general explanation identifies cyborgs as hybrids of organic and artificial components. In examining the human-technology merger it is necessary to outline the origins of cyborg inception and development, both as a rhetorical figure and as a corporeal form. The range of human-machine unions is immense. The rhetorical cyborg features in numerous genres, ranging from science fiction to scientific dissertations, from manuscripts to manifestos. While a more meaty form of the cyborg in human society is evident in medical and military spheres, as well as in artworks and films. The twentieth century in particular has been awash with cyborg creatures, from the Futurist's conception of a new race of machine-extended men to Mariko Mori's cyborg performances during the nineteen-nineties. Accordingly, I situate the cyborg as bringing together the past history of the body with current corporeal forms, as well as offering up the possible future of alternative body types.
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