Cultural Articulations of Alterity and Resistance in the New Millennium
Rethinking ‘Identities’ is a multi-authored project that is original in providing – in distributed and granular mode – a hyper-contemporary and wide-ranging applied analysis that questions notions of identity based on nation and region, language, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion or even ‘the human’. The volume achieves this by mobilizing various contexts of identity (gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nation) and medium (art, cinema, literature, music, theatre, video). Emphasizing the extreme contemporary (the twenty-first century) and the challenges posed by an increasingly global society, this collection of essays builds upon existing intellectual investigations of identity with the aim of offering a fresh perspective that transcends cognitive and geographical frontiers.
Christopher Lloyd: Redrawing the Boundaries of the Human: Automata, Androids and Clones from Hoffmann to Houellebecq
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Philosophers and artists have long been fascinated by the similarities and differences between the human and machines apparently endowed with intelligence and agency. Descartes’s Discourse on Method (1637) argues, with detailed anatomical examples, that the bodies of men and animals are incomparably more complex machines ‘made by the hand of God […] than any of those which can be invented by men’ (Descartes 1976: 73), but also that men are qualitatively distinct from both animals and machines in their possession of language, reason and an immortal soul. A century later, the mechanistic materialist La Mettrie broke the bounds of Cartesian dualism and theological orthodoxy in L’Homme machine (1747) by doubting whether men were significantly different from either animals or machines. Not only was the human body a machine, but ‘Man is only an Animal, or an Assembly of springs’ (La Mettrie 1966: 135), a more sophisticated version of the automata mimicking human and animal functions made by his contemporary the clockmaker Vaucanson. The argument raised by these examples, over the radical separation or fusion of humans and machines (with animals somewhere in the middle), has continued to the present day; no doubt because, in the widest sense, it raises ontological, ethical, technological and metaphysical issues which define and determine the nature and evolution of humanity and civilization. While the man as machine metaphor may seem displeasingly reductive and deterministic (since it evacuates the spiritual and free will), the reversal of the terms is rather more...
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