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

Chapter 4 ). In this chapter, I outline the narratives of organ transplant recipients, that tell of how receiving an organ changes who they are and alters their subjectivity. The donated organ is, in some way, rehumanised or socialised with the donor’s presence (Fox and Swazey, 1992 ). This challenges a Cartesian Dualism ideology that suggests the body and the person are separate and distinct entities. Turning towards a more phenomenological approach originating from Merleau-Ponty ( 2012 , 1945), and later by Leder ( 1990 ), I compare accounts of subjectivity

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researching the lived forms of embodiment through the biomedical practices of organ transplantation, xenotransplantation and cyborgisation, I demonstrate how the experience of embodiment is based on a subjectivity intimately tied to an individual’s body. However, there is no paradox in experiencing being a body or having a body as embodiment is ambiguous. I began with following a philosophical path, bringing Descartes’ Cartesian Dualism which implies an individual ‘has a body’ in the same way that they might have a car into conversation with Merleau-Ponty’s ‘being a body

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due to interactions with other people. By identity and subjectivity, I mean the way that an individual experiences herself as embodied. Subjectivity indicates a going beyond the conceptualisation of embodiment as Cartesian Dualism and as a self only having a body. Moreover, identity is different to the phenomenologically based embodiment as perception, because identity focuses on the experience of embodiment (and not embodiment as experience). Additionally, using identity as important in the experience of embodiment recognises that a person’s body has an inside as

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of the relationship between consciousness and the body here (as opposed to the Cartesian dualism more commonly referenced). See Matthew Feldman, Beckett’s Books: A Cultural History of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Interwar Notes’ (London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 48–9; John Wall, ‘Murphy, Belacqua, Schopenhauer and Descartes: metaphysical reflections on the body’, Journal of Beckett Studies, 9:2 (Spring 2000), 21–61. For wider consideration of Schopenhauer’s influence on Beckett, see: Terence McQueeny, ‘Samuel Beckett as critic of Proust and Joyce’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of

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and soul. The separation of the two sides of being is a recurring theme in the Western tradition. It is a landmark of the Greeks, a landmark of Augustinian theology and a landmark of Cartesian dualism. Liberationist Christology discards the separation of body and soul in favour of a radical reinterpretation of the metaphysics of Christian purpose, turning the axis of Christianity to a profoundly this-​worldly orientation. The history of salvation in the Kingdom-​to-​come is worked out in the present, not an ever-​receding future, and therefore salvation must be

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these organ donor recipients, but it does lead to further questions about how widespread such a contra-Cartesian belief is. The transplant recipient community is a small sample of unique individuals at the moment and perhaps only a fewer number report such alterations. As was discussed in the last chapter, the Cartesian Dualism that dominates current medical practice and thinking is one that is found more generally in society, with the modern emphasis on the brain as the materiality of self. In this chapter, I set out to research whether embodiment is ambiguous only

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Mathews in her monograph For Love of Matter (2003) and explored further in Reinhabiting Reality (2005).6 Put (far too) simply, though, Mathews’s ‘contemporary panpsychism’, like Plumwood’s ‘philosophical animism’ (2009) and other variants of ‘new materialism’ (e.g. Coole and Frost 2010), challenges the prevalent view of matter as passive, mute and mindlessly mechanistic that came to prominence with Cartesian dualism and Newtonian atomism. The inadequacy of this view was already becoming apparent to those physicists, such as Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, who began

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