Emily Laurel Smith on "Body Upgrades?: Embodying Technoscience “Progress” while Resisting Cures."
Science and technology continually raise the bar of normal through innovations to correct the body’s natural “flaws,” leading to increased social pressure to perfect ourselves or become “better than well.” This trend is particularly severe for people with disabilities, despite the attempts by the disability rights movement and disability studies to expose normalcy as a product of ableism. At the same time, many scholars exploring posthumanism and cyborg theory have deemed people with disabilities as the “forerunner cyborgs” because of the disabled body’s dependence on assistive technology devices. Yet, these scholars have rarely explored what this means to those who embody this theory. My talk will introduce how this image of the “forerunner cyborg” exists outside of academia as well as inside,
in popular culture, such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and even in assistive technology innovation. In addition, I contrast this
simplified understanding of people with disabilities as always techno-needy with the more fraught relationship with technology articulated by many people with disabilities. By pairing these two disparate conceptions of the disabled body/machine interface, I ask:
to what extent does mainstream U.S. culture see disability as an imperfection or flaw to be corrected for the good of the nation? And, are people with disabilities as eager to cure and technologically fix their bodies as the creators of technology and science are?