Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

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

Augmenting the Body: Disability, Bodily Extensions, and the Posthuman

Autumn Semester Events

All events take place in seminar room 2 Leeds Humanities Research Institute, 29-31 Clarendon Place, Leeds, LS2 9JT  no. 25 on: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/campusmap

Augmentation, Disability and Embodiment

Tuesday 18 October 2016, 2-4pm

Professor Sarah Whatley and Kate Marsh (Coventry)

What does it mean to be a human body? Is a prosthetic limb a body-part or a tool? Can a body be replaced by an avatar? How do the values and terminologies of augmentation and disability play out together within our technologised society? In contemporary philosophy, bodies are often described as assemblages, posthuman, fluid in their boundaries, and multiple in their identities. Theories and practices of embodiment both support and confound such descriptions, exploring boundaries, extensions, and permutations of bodies in relation to lived experience. Opening with a series of short provocations by invited speakers, this seminar will discuss embodiment and bodily experience in relation to augmented and disabled bodies. Speakers include Sarah Whatley, Professor of Dance and Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded research project InVisible Difference: Dance, Disability and Law at Coventry University, and Kate Marsh, disabled performer and recent doctoral candidate, Coventry University.


Redesigning the Human

Monday 7th November 2016, 2pm

Professor Tony Prescott and Dr. Michael Szollosy (Sheffield) 4078530915_8d8976ddf6_n

Dr Andrew Cook (Dundee)

From clothes, piercings and tattoos to implanted devices and prosthetic limbs, bodily augmentations shape not only our sense of ourselves as individuals, but our conception of what it means to be human. This seminar will explore the way new developments in robotics and artificial intelligence are changing perceptions and experiences of disability and the posthuman body. Led by Professor Tony Prescott and Dr. Michael Szollosy of Sheffield Robotics and Dr Andrew Cook of Dundee, we will ask how disability-related design is moving beyond notions of rehabilitation, imitation and repair, and challenging conventional understandings of the relationship between the human body and its technological extensions.


Disability and the DisHuman

Monday 5th December 2016, 2pm

Professor Dan Goodley and Dr Kirsty Liddiard (Sheffield)

Dr Angharad Beckett (Leeds)

How does disability enlarge and trouble the posthuman condition? How do bodily extensions and augmentations enter into the politics of human vulnerability? What does it mean to crip embodiment, pleasure, and care? Join us at this Augmenting the Body Sadler Seminar on Disability and the DisHuman to discuss these questions and more.

The seminar will begin with brief provocations from three invited speakers. Angharad Beckett (Leeds) will consider the politics of vulnerability in light of advances in ‘rehabilitative’ and ‘assistive’ technologies. Dan Goodley (Sheffield) will present a DisHuman Manifesto that interrogates and reshapes notions of the posthuman. Kirsty Liddiard (Sheffield) will explore how discourses of care might reposition disability as vital, expansive and erotic. Professor Goodley and Dr Liddiard will also introduce the iHuman project and their work on the contradictory co-realities of human enhancement and dehumanisation in contemporary culture and politics.

For more information, email s.jones1@leeds.ac.uk. You can also follow the project and our speakers on Twitter:






Spring Semester Events 

Work and the Posthuman

Thursday 27th April, 3-5pm

With Rebecca Randell and Stuart Murray


Reading Disability in a time of posthuman work

Stuart Murray (English, Leeds)

This presentation will explore contemporary culture’s seeming obsession with ideas of speed, immediacy and efficiency in a time of 24/7 work, and where disability is positioned within such concepts. It will then look at two contemporary novels (Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed and Michael Faber’s Under the Skin) that, through the representation of disability, offer critiques of posthuman work economies. In both texts, ideas of a singular and coherent body or self, and a humanist ‘proveable identity’, are revealed to be unsustainable because of the manner in which disability interacts with expectations of work.


Augmentation in the operating theatre: The impact of robotic surgery on teamwork

Rebecca Randell (Healthcare, Leeds)

This presentation will report findings from a recently completed study looking at the impact of robotic surgery on teamwork in the operating theatre. The robot provides the surgeon with a magnified, 3D view of the surgical site, more precise movement through tremor elimination and motion scaling, and increased freedom of movement. Robotic surgery also allows the surgeon to do more: with the provision of additional arms, the surgeon has control of the camera and can undertake retraction, both of which they are unable to do in a keyhole operation. However, this has implications for the roles of other members of the surgical team. The robot also takes away resources usually available in surgery, the surgeon’s position in the robot reducing awareness and presenting challenges for communication.



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