Steele, Warren Donald
Body of glass: cybernetic bodies and the mirrored self.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis examines the ontology of the cyborg body and the politics inherent to cultural manifestations of that image, and focuses on the links between glass and human-machine integration, while tracing the dangerous political affinities that emerge when such links are exposed.
In the first chapter, the cyborg’s persistent construction as a cultural Black Box is uncovered using the theories of Bruno Latour and W. Ross Ashby. It examines why the temptation to explore the cyborg solely through close readings of contemporary incarnations leads only to confusion and misreading. The second chapter builds on the work of the first by placing the cyborg within its proper historical context, and provides a detailed examination of the period in which the cyborg was not only named, but also transformed into a physical possibility with an existent political agenda. It then investigates the phallogocentricity, hyper-masculinity, and inherent racism of the cyborg body, and demonstrates how representations of human-machine integration reinforce the pre-existing racist, hetero-normative, patriarchal hegemony of the Cold War.
The discussion then explores the issue of the emergent property in the cyborg body; specifically, the figure’s persistent construction as a ‘body of glass.’ It demonstrates how cyborgs are not only associated with objects like the mirror, but also how that figure is tied to visual motifs such as the double or doppelganger. Accordingly, the theories of Jacques Lacan are employed to elucidate the issues that arise when one of the most pervasive images in Western culture also doubles as a reflector. The final chapter seeks to expand upon the framework provided by Lacan, and examines the cyborg not as a mirror, but as a portal. Subsequently, this section challenges not only the cyborg’s current status as a posthuman figure, but also current theoretical assumptions which frame the cyborg as the point of transition from humanism to posthumanism.
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