Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds

Morphological Freedom: Constructing the Posthuman Body

Luna Dolezal is speaking at the Centre for Medical Humanities (basement, School of English) next Monday on ‘Morphological Freedom: Constructing the Posthuman Body’, between 5.00 and 6.00. All are welcome.

Here’s the abstract:

Morphological freedom is a concept that underpins much of the discourse surrounding the status of the human body in the 21st century and is a prominent and foundational concept within posthumanist and transmunanist writing. The idea of morphological freedom connotes both the body’s inherent plasticity and, more centrally, one’s individual autonomy when it comes to making choices about modifying, enhancing or altering one’s own body. In this paper, I will explore some aspects of the genealogy and phenomenology of morphological freedom in order to excavate its ideological foundations and its material, or fleshy, limitations. In doing so, I will argue that the idea of morphological freedom effaces and disavows the body while simultaneously reaffirming its central place in subjectivity. This tension between disembodiment and embodiment, alongside confused demarcations between individual bodies and intercorporeality, are prevalent in the discourses of practices where we arguably see a realization of morphological freedom, such as cosmetic, surgery, body hacking and posthuman performance art, and I will turn to these examples as illustrative. Ultimately, I will make argue two central claims. First, the modifications, enhancements or changes that we (or transhumanists and posthumanists) may want to make to the body are driven by larger institutional and ideological forces, and we must examine these forces to understand the very parameters of what we consider the means for self-actualization to be. Second, there are concrete limitations to the changes that we can make to the body. We do not have infinite corporeal plasticity or malleability. Instead, the sorts of changes we can make to the body occur within fairly narrow parameters and have significant existential consequences. As a result, our morphological freedom is significantly bounded by our physicality, or fleshiness.

Biography:

Luna Dolezal is an Irish Research Council / Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow. She is based between the Department of Philosophy, Durham University and the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin. Her research is in the areas of phenomenology, existential philosophy and medical humanities. She has recently published a book entitled The Body and Shame: Phenomenology, Feminism and the Socially Shaped Body (Lexington Books, 2015).

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