Recycled alterity: Familiar dehumanisation in the contemporary fiction of genetic posthumanism

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dc.contributor.advisor Boyd, B en Irvine, Anaise en 2017-01-27T01:11:21Z en 2016 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description.abstract Genetic technologies are now sufficiently advanced to alter the human genome. Indeed, gene editing is already practiced in some countries for medical purposes. However, future directions for the use of genetic technologies are unclear. Scholars of the “posthuman” future tend to speculate that genetic engineering (and other technologies) will create superhumans, and the term “human enhancement” is used to describe the practice of “improving” the human form. However, recent fiction on bioengineering themes envisages not a programme of enhancement, but rather the creation of a new genetic class system in which cloned or engineered human-like organisms form an oppressed and abused minority. These organisms – which I term genetic posthumans – have emerged as protagonists in numerous novels and films, allowing for a humanising view of the interiority of the cloned or engineered mind. This humanised mind is then juxtaposed to the genetic posthuman’s othered status. In order to establish the alterity of the genetic posthuman, storytellers strategically recycle modes of dehumanisation applied in historical race- or gender-based struggles. In each case, genetic posthumans are described in a manner recalling other oppressed outgroups: they are made secondary to unaltered humans, they are economically exploited, and they are treated as animals despite their evident humanness. This primes audiences to accept the purported differences of the genetic posthuman as social constructions rather than “natural” or biologically innate distinctions. This thesis proposes that contemporary genetic engineering fictions act as a corrective to the assumptions of posthumanist theory by positioning genetic posthuman characters as disadvantaged beings, using forms of dehumanisation made familiar by recent history. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005), and Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003-2013) are examined as key examples of fiction in this area. Other novels, plays, and films are also analysed, including George Lucas’s THX 1138 (1971); Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976); Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982); Fay Weldon’s The Cloning of Joanna May (1989); Michael Marshall Smith’s Spares (1996); Caryl Churchill’s A Number (2002); and Michael Bay’s The Island (2005). Each of these works contests the posthumanist assumption that genetic technologies will be used to improve the human form. Although human enhancement is a possible outcome of genetic engineering, these storytellers imply another scenario: that corporatized science could lead to the creation of economically useful, animalised, dehumanised creatures. These genetic posthumans could have human (or human-like) bodies and minds, but not human rights. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA99264895409802091 en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
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dc.title Recycled alterity: Familiar dehumanisation in the contemporary fiction of genetic posthumanism en
dc.type Thesis en English en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
dc.rights.accessrights en
pubs.elements-id 610376 en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2017-01-27 en
dc.identifier.wikidata Q112931095

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