From Outbreak to The Walking Dead, apocalyptic narratives of infection, contagion and global pandemic are an inescapable part of twenty-first-century popular culture. Yet these fears and fantasies are too virulent to be simply quarantined within fictional texts. The vocabulary and metaphors of outbreak narratives have permeated how news media, policymakers and the general public view the real world and the people within it. In an age where fact and fiction seem increasingly difficult to separate, contagious bodies (and the discourses that contain them) continually blur established boundaries between real and unreal, legitimacy and frivolity, science and the supernatural. Where previous scholarly work has examined the spread of epidemic realities in horror fiction, the essays in this collection also consider how epidemic fantasies and fears influence reality. Initiating dialogue between scholarship from cultural and media studies, and scholarship from the medical humanities and social sciences, this collection gives readers a fuller picture of the viropolitics of contagious bodies in contemporary global culture.
Back in May I wrote that I was working on the final manuscript for an edited collection called Embodying Contagion, co-edited with Sandra Becker and Sara Polak. Now, I am excited to announce that the collection is available for preorder with University of Wales Press, and will be coming to a bookstore or library near you in April 2021. The book will be released in paperback (retailing at £45), but most importantly it will also be coming out in Open Access, thanks to a generous grant from the Dutch NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities.
Readers of this blog are warmly encouraged to consider submitting an abstract to this edited collection, which is seeking chapters by artists and makers, as well as scholars of all backgrounds. I have worked with both the collection editors (Matthew Hayler and Christine Daigle) and the series editors (Matthew Hayler and Danielle Sands) in relation to my work with the Critical Posthumanism Network, and highly recommend the experience!
“It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas.” This claim by Marilyn Strathem is quoted and given many variations in Donna Haraway’s Staying With the Trouble (2016). Ideas are assemblages that emerge from the various entanglements in which we exist and that constantly shape what we are and can be. Ideas spring from the dynamic material engagments humans have with one another and with the other beings and objects in our worlds. Therefore, our manner of engaging, the very practices we adopt to think, feel, experience, and theorise our entanglements, matter a great deal. As Karen Barad famously posited, “knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing but rather from a direct material engagement with the world” (2007, 49): the ways in which we engage determine our knowing.
Critical posthumanism seeks to challenge contemporary anthropocentric and Humanist worldviews, and to establish new ways to conceive of ourselves and the environments and relationships in which we arc enmeshed. It has become clear that new thoughts and actions are needed as posthumanism demonstrates its usefulness. For this to be possible, we need to engage in thinking differently, shaking off old habits, embracing new methodologies, and rediscovering, or listening for the first time, to what has come before, or is going on right now, in other disciplines, cultures, and the actions of humans and non-humans. Putting posthumanism into practice, in short, demands exploratory, attentive, and speculative ventures that may, as yet, be unconventional in an academic setting, but generate new ideas and ways of acting. Posthumanism in practice also seeks to create ways and objects of knowing co-produced across the arts, humanities, and sciences, across sectors, disciplines, practitioners, and species. It asks: how is your practice, whatever your field of activity, transformed when enlivened by posthumanist ideas?
Last week I posted about disability in the Victorian age. This week, by some brilliant stroke of coincidence, I came across the following article on Steampunk Journal: In 2014, Mina was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. One of the significant symptoms is a weakness of the muscles which meant she required living aids to … Read more
When we think of ‘the Victorians’, we’re actually often thinking of a very specific group of people. This is a usually a representational issue. White, upper-class, able-bodied people are the ones we see in most photographs of ‘the Victorians’ (though not all). These are ‘the Victorians’ most often depicted on-screen, or written about in neo-Victorian fiction. If these are the ‘typical’ … Read more