about 10 years ago

One contemporary belief likely to stupefy future generations is the postmodern orthodoxy that the body is primarily, if not entirely, a linguistic and discursive construction. Coincident with cybernetic developments that stripped information of its body were discursive analyses within the humanities, especially the archaeology of knowledge pioneered by Michel Foucault, that saw the body as a play of discourse systems. Although researchers in the physical and human sciences acknowledged the importance of materiality in different ways, they nevertheless collaborated in creating the postmodern ideology that the body's materiality is secondary to the logical or semiotic structures it encodes. It is not difficult to find pronouncements supporting an ideology of disembodiment in cultural theory, no less than in cybernetics. Consider the following claims. "The Human body, our body, seems superfluous in its proper expanse, in the complexity and multiplicity of its organs, of its tissue and functions, because today everything is concentrated in the brain and the genetic code, which alone sum up the operational definition of being," Jean Baudriallard wrote in The Ecstasy of Communication. I believe that they should be taken as evidence not that the body has disappeared by that a certain kind of subjectivity has emerged. The very theorists who most emphatically claim that the body is disappearing also operate within material and cultural circumstances that make the claim for the body's disappearance seem plausible. The body's dematerialization depends in complex and highly specific ways on the embodied circumstances that an ideology of dematerialization would obscure. Excavating these connections requires a way of talking about the body responsive to its construction as discourse/information and yet not trapped within it.

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