Technologies that alter subjectivity
Author: Gill Haddow

Using a range of social science methods and drawing on the sociology of the body, biomedicine and technology, Haddow invites readers of ‘Embodiment and everyday cyborgs’ to consider whether they might prefer organs from other humans or non-human animals (known as xenotransplantation), or implantable ‘cybernetic’ technologies to replace their own? In discovering that individuals have a very clear preference for human organs but not for the non-human, Haddow suggests that the inside of our bodies may be more important to our sense of identity than may have previously been thought.

Whereas organs from other (once) living bodies can contaminate the body of the recipient (simultaneously altering subjectivity so they inherit traits e.g. gender), cybernetic technology is acclimatised to and becomes part of the body and subjectivity. In organ transplantation the organ has the potential to alter subjectivity – whereas with cybernetic technology it does not alter identity but is incorporated into existing subjectivity.

Technologies are clean from previous organic fleshy associations and although they may malfunction or cause infection, they do not alter identity in the way that an organ might. Yet, we are arguably creating a 21st-century identity crisis through an increasing reliance on cybernetic technologies such as implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) creating new forms of ‘un-health’ and a new category of patient called ‘everyday cyborgs’ who have to develop strategies to incorporate device alienation as well as reinserting human agency over ICD activation.

Gill Haddow

show that ambiguous embodiment is neither an abstract nor neutral (or even neural) static state. Varela not only dismisses the neural centric approach to subjectivity, but his decentred reference to the multiplicity of identity links the body modification via the integrity of the viscera, the subsequent subjectivity alteration and relationships with other people. That is, individuals are embodied, but as people, they are also embedded within particular social networks and temporalities. Varela’s account of transplantation highlights how embodiment is being and having

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Open Access (free)
Towards a future of techno-organic hybridity
Gill Haddow

, adding my sociological caveats such that unlike Merleau-Ponty’s ‘embodiment as experience’ I have focused upon ‘experience as embodiment’. However, Merleau-Ponty’s emphasis on the person associating themselves with their body is a key element to bring to the discussion. I have suggested the experience of embodiment is important when an individual’s body is modified through transplantation, amputation or cyborgisation. Such body modification creates a body that is no longer absent for the individual; this absence was a taken-for-granted assumption because in our daily

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Open Access (free)
Animal, mechanical and me: Technologies that alter subjectivity
Gill Haddow

of organs and devices used to repair the structure and function of their viscera. Individuals will be less than 100 per cent human as they increasingly become augmented by different types and kinds of materials. The ‘born body’ of a human being, will become the exception rather than the rule and the ‘techno-organic hybrid body’ the new norm. Alterations to the body’s integrity or, as I also refer to it, simply the ‘insides’ of the individual’s body, causing it to become a hybrid, will have consequences for identity. Body modifications, even in our inside bodies

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Translatina world-making in The Salt Mines and Wildness
Laura Horak

this diversity of terms and concepts without trying to homogenise them under a single label or political project. Gigi, Giovanna, and Sara mostly use female pronouns and engage in some forms of body modification –​in one scene, they inject black-​market hormones, and in another Giovanna points out her breast implants. Yet they use many different words to describe themselves. At one point, Giovanna says ‘I consider myself a transvestite’ (Yo me considero un transvestista), using a part-​English, part-​Spanish version of the word ‘transvestite’ with a male pronoun (un

in The power of vulnerability
Gill Haddow

with the experience of body modification such as amputation or transplantation or is there a broader social-cultural belief that subjectivity might be altered when given a hypothetical scenario? To put it another way, are the narratives of those reported by some transplant recipients echoed in the expectations of those who do not have organ transplants? These are important questions because if there is any way to improve the current organ supply-demand shortage experienced almost everywhere despite alternative systems of procurement such as presumed consent, then

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Gill Haddow

and therefore constitute an absence ( 1990 ). Our absent bodies are a daily aspect of everyday living, and it is only at times of bodily change or pain that our body becomes present. Such body modification, as in the case of ICD implantation, causes the ‘absent absence’ and a ‘dys-appearance’ (Leder, 1990 ), meaning that absent bodies are no longer absent. For some, the feeling of the ICDs causing an ‘absent absence’ inside their body was particularly acute in the weeks that followed the surgery. From inside the body, the feeling of the ICD’s presence was there

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs