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You may, as you wish, directly address the questions presented here, or send in a text responding to one or some of them (or taking up some other issue that seems to you relevant). Whichever way, we would be grateful if you could keep your answers to a maximum of 10 pp. (1.5 spaced, 12-point type). Please use the author-date in-text citation system for any references in the format [Smith 2002: 12], i.e. author/date (no comma) in square brackets, appending a list of ‘References’ at the end with full publication details: Author: e.g. Smith M. A.; Article title: e.g. ‘Visual Anthropology’; Journal title: e.g. Ethnology. 2002. No. 3. Pp. 14–19; or alternatively, Author: e.g. Smith M. A.; Book title: e.g. Visual Anthropology. Place: Publisher, date, pages: e.g. London: Anvil Press, 2002. 356 pp. Please send replies by 15 May 2018 to forum.for.anthropology()gmail.com, with a copy to catriona.kelly()new.ox.ac.uk; your email address should be included in any attached file. We hope that the discussion will appear in the spring of 2018.
Forum 38: New Technologies and the Body
The issues of techniques and the body, corporeality and technology – whether interacting together in some way, or as separate research fields – have preoccupied scholars back to the origins of anthropology as a discipline. But bodies and techniques are less often addressed together (as in the classical discussions of the concept of 'bodily techniques' to be found in the work of Marcel Mauss and André Leroi-Gourhan). So what is the reason for the concentrated attention to this topic in contemporary anthropology? And in what ways is the discussion developing?
Until recently, medical anthropology, with its focus on the cultural construction of health management and illness, maintained a largely separate existence from the anthropology of bodily techniques and technologies, and it was only radical changes in contemporary biomedical practices that brought about the shared interest of those working in the different subdisciplines in striving for some kind of synthesis of the different disciplines. Alongside this comes the fact that our bodies have for long been imbricated in the functioning of sophisticated systems of techniques that ensure the survival of individuals and humanity generally. However, recently the pace of development of technological culture has begun substantially to overtake analysis of this process by the practitioners of the humanities and social sciences, anthropologists included. In turn, the gap between the pace of development of knowledge and of technoreality is not only intellectually regrettable but may prove catastrophic.
Among the aims of the current Forum is to stimulate discussion among anthropologists and cultural historians of precisely this 'knowledge gap' and to foster critiques of the interrelationship of corporeal and technological realities, including such areas as the mechanics of technology and its instrumentalisation of the body. This might include topics such as robotisation and ‘cyborgisation’, the expansion of human capacities with the aid of new technologies, the competition between human intelligence and IT, the technological dimensions of biopolitics and biopower, new cognitive techniques such as neurohacking, and the emergence of transhuman studies.
We accordingly invite participants in the Forum to address the following questions:
1. What is the role of anthropology in the discussion of contemporary technologies and the impact of these on the human body? What is the relationship between anthropology and other disciplines in this area?
2. What are, in your view, the most promising approaches to the study of the body? Which most deserve discussion and implementation?
3. Which new problems and questions are raised for scholarly analysis (particularly in fields such as medical anthropology and the anthropology of consciousness) by new developments in the fields of biotechnology and the cognitive sciences?
4. How will the development of new technologies impact upon the future of anthropology and/or the humanities and social sciences generally?
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