Open Access (free)
Towards a future of techno-organic hybridity
Gill Haddow

Largely going unnoticed there lies a 21st-century identity crisis generated from the overwhelming desire of human beings to repair, replace or regenerate the human body. Embodiment is ambiguous and is a state that becomes particularly acute when technological and organic modifications to the inside of the body alter subjectivity – this is thought to happen because the body and identity are one and the same ‒ prior to an individual’s reflection when the body can be separated. Transplanting organs from humans and non-human animals therefore contaminates the recipient, not only changing their body, but changing who they are. On the other hand, technological modifications are incorporated into the human body and identity and do not cause any concerns about subjectivity alteration. Rather, there can be a willingness to acclimatise with a cybernetic system and its coming to be incorporated into the organism to form a part of their identity in the way that other corporeal structures such as organs are.

Nevertheless, the ability of the everyday cyborg to acclimatise to their new techno-organic hybridity is not necessarily a case for celebration. The increasing biomedical reliance of technoscience is generating new vulnerabilities that is creating new strategies of ‘unhealth’ and indeed may be thought of as a new form of (bio)medical nemesis (Illich, 2003).

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Technologies that alter subjectivity
Author: Gill Haddow

Using a range of social science methods and drawing on the sociology of the body, biomedicine and technology, Haddow invites readers of ‘Embodiment and everyday cyborgs’ to consider whether they might prefer organs from other humans or non-human animals (known as xenotransplantation), or implantable ‘cybernetic’ technologies to replace their own? In discovering that individuals have a very clear preference for human organs but not for the non-human, Haddow suggests that the inside of our bodies may be more important to our sense of identity than may have previously been thought.

Whereas organs from other (once) living bodies can contaminate the body of the recipient (simultaneously altering subjectivity so they inherit traits e.g. gender), cybernetic technology is acclimatised to and becomes part of the body and subjectivity. In organ transplantation the organ has the potential to alter subjectivity – whereas with cybernetic technology it does not alter identity but is incorporated into existing subjectivity.

Technologies are clean from previous organic fleshy associations and although they may malfunction or cause infection, they do not alter identity in the way that an organ might. Yet, we are arguably creating a 21st-century identity crisis through an increasing reliance on cybernetic technologies such as implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) creating new forms of ‘un-health’ and a new category of patient called ‘everyday cyborgs’ who have to develop strategies to incorporate device alienation as well as reinserting human agency over ICD activation.

Gill Haddow

Everyday cyborgs are created through the implantation of a cybernetic device in the form of an ICD that will protect them from a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Using their voices and of those that live with them, I relate their stories of cyborgisation, beginning from the reasons why they came to be a techno-organic hybrid mediated through the medical system. With no space inside their bodies to accommodate the ICD, it sits on the in-between of inside but also as a reverse silhouette on the outside. Taking the outside-in, the ICD generates a body whose ‘absent absence’ is caused by invasion and alienation (Leder, 1990). Eventually the ICD sinks into the body, losing its prominence, and acclimatisation to the new bodily hybridity is a process that follows implantation: accepting the ICD as a corporeal structure and becoming an important ‘part of me’. Nevertheless, the presence of the ICD continues to alter the daily life of the everyday cyborg from where they can go to how they interact with others.

Spouses and partners of everyday cyborgs are grateful for the ICD that allows them to stand down from their watch offering day and night insurance against SCA. The everyday cyborg complains about the over-protectiveness of loved ones who now see their role as protecting everyday cyborgs from harm they might do to themselves (as opposed to protecting them from the slim possibility of malicious hackers). Indeed, the everyday cyborg reconciles the lack of autonomy they have over the ICD activating through: 1) viewing the ICD as doing something ‘for’ them rather than ‘to’ them, and 2) blaming excessive activities causing the ICD to shock them relocates agency with the cyborg.

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Open Access (free)
Animal, mechanical and me: Technologies that alter subjectivity
Gill Haddow

Human organ transplantation has never met the demand for organs, and in all probability never will. The answer to the current shortage therefore is not to alter systems of organ procurement but to examine different sources. This book explores the repercussions of using different types (mechanical) and kinds (human and non-human animal) of materiality to do so and how such technologies change the human body, personal identity and relationships with others (and indeed with other species), questioning the turn to cybernetic implantable medical technology and the creation of new techno-organic hybrids called ‘everyday cyborgs’. These everyday cyborgs are not the same as the more well-known cyborg-as-monster representations in film and literature but share some similarities with the original definition of the term, inspired by envisioning what closed loop feedback systems would be required to survive future space travel (Clynes and Kline, 1960). Although the concept of the everyday cyborg shares the ideation of pulling down the binaries that as people we have created (Haraway, 1991) when examining current medical practices of using cybernetic systems such as implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD), there is social stratification in cyborgisation in terms of who benefits from the technology. But the very question of how this technology comes to be experienced as a ‘benefit’ requires further exploration.

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
Open Access (free)
Gill Haddow

Xenotransplantation and 3-D bioprinting are not yet viable solutions to repairing human organs, however medical reliance on technologies, some implanted and increasingly with ‘smart’ functionalities, is. Some implantable medical technologies such as cardiac devices, cochlear implants and deep brain stimulators are autonomous, intelligent and responsive to the extent that they fulfil the criteria of a cybernetic system as originally defined as a closed loop feedback system. However, ICDs go beyond this functionality and have command-control-communicate intelligence (C3I according to (Haraway, 1991). Implanting cybernetic systems into organisms creates cyborgs. Yet using the term to describe people is highly controversial, mainly because the cyborg is commonly associated with the monsters represented in film and books. Although authors in science and technology studies use the cyborg term in a more nuanced way, little is known about how individuals who experience cyborgisation processes feel or have had their voice listened to. In this chapter, I outline the various cyborg representations, show how they can be used to apply to different people, as well as advocating for the need to reclaim the ‘everyday cyborg’. This is because the everyday cyborg makes the stratification of cyborgisation visible (demonstrating the gendered nature of ICD implantation, for example). But ‘everyday cyborg’ also highlights the existence of unique challenges that may be faced. These challenges relate to acclimatisation after the implantation of the ICD which compromises body image and integrity, affecting identity (so called ‘Triad of I’) and coming to terms with the activation of the device when it emits a shock.

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
W. E. B. Du Bois and Oliver Cromwell Cox as democratic theorists
Paul M. Heideman

The intellectual history of black Marxism in the United States has focused overwhelmingly on how black Marxists approached the race question. This focus has tended to exceptionalize these thinkers, occluding both their embeddedness in other streams of thought and their broader visions of social theory. This chapter demonstrates the yields of a broader lens on black Marxism through a discussion of the work of W. E. B. Du Bois and Oliver Cromwell Cox. Specifically, it focuses on the theories of democracy developed in their respective major works, Black Reconstruction in America and Caste, Class & Race.

in Marxism and America
Marxism and Civil War memory
Matthew E. Stanley

This chapter surveys how the U.S. Civil War was interpreted by Marxists and remembered and utilized by workers’ causes. Beyond an expressed adherence to Marxism, socialism, or revolutionary politics, the red memory of the Civil War possessed certain hallmarks, emphasized by its progenitors in various proportions: materiality, internationalism, futurism, and proletarian agency. According to generations of radical and revolutionary workers and Marxist thinkers, not only had the war been part of a world-historical process that broke the power of landed aristocracy even as it ushered in new forms of capital aggregation and economic dominion, its emancipatory program was the precursor to a broader deliverance from “wage slavery” and therefore heralded a left future. Overall, this synthesis and reinterpretation of Marxist Civil War memory and leftist historiography reveals a variety of radical remembrances and their residual impact on scholarly paradigms, with implications for the significance of class in the study of collective memory.

in Marxism and America
Abstract only
Mobilizing for parliament, 1641– 5
Author: Jordan S. Downs

Although few would contend that London and its inhabitants were indispensable to parliament’s war effort against King Charles I, the matter remains to be delineated in detail. This book explores how London’s agitators, activists, and propagandists sought to mobilize the metropolis between 1641 and 1645. Rather than simply frame London’s wartime participation from the top down, this book explores mobilization as a series of disparate but structured processes – as efforts and events that created webs of engagement. These webs joined parliamentarian activists to civic authorities, just as they connected parishioners to vestries and preachers, and forced interaction between committees, Common Council, liverymen, and apprentices. The success of any given mobilizing effort – or counter-mobilization, for that matter – varied. Activists adapted their tactics accordingly, meeting their circumstances head-on. Londoners meanwhile heeded the entreaties of preachers and civic leaders alike, signing petitions, donating, and taking to the streets to protest both for and against war. Initially called upon to loan money and fortify the metropolis in 1642–3, Londoners had by 1644 become reluctant lenders and overburdened caretakers for sick and wounded soldiers. Revealed here by way of a wealth of archival and printed sources is the collective story of London’s evolving relationship to the challenges of wartime mobilization, of the evolution of efforts to move money and men, and the popular responses that defined not only parliament’s wartime success, but the arrival of novel financial expedients that gave rise to the New Model Army and eventually became apparatuses of the state.

Theorizing sexual violence during the feminist sex wars of the 1980s
Mara Keire

Feminists on both sides of the 1980s sex wars used Marxist theory to analyze sexual violence, its relationship to pornography, and whether pornography liberated or oppressed women. In their analyses, they considered three core Marxist concepts: class, commodity, and consumption. While most agreed that women formed a separate class, they differed on how that class was formed, whether sexual violence played a role in constituting it, and if pornography contributed to the oppression of women as a group. Feminists including Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin excoriated the pornography industry, focusing on its corporate exploitation of women and outlining the society-wide consequences of men’s consumption of pornography. Pro-sex feminist such as Ellen Willis and Gayle Rubin countered Gramscian interpretations, contending that women and men could separate fantasy from reality in their private use of smut. Through subversive readings, they argued, women could imagine a more liberated future.

in Marxism and America
Kim Moody

While the United States has long conformed to Marx’s analysis of the dynamics of capitalism and its crises, it has historically not followed the political direction of Europe, giving rise to the notion of American exceptionalism. Yet, the development of both European social democracy and global capitalism have brought about a recent convergence of political ideology and practice culminating in neoliberalism and “Third Way” politics across developed economies. Since the Great Recession of 2008–09, and in response to increasing inequality and declining living standards, a growing upsurge of rebellion by a changing and more diverse working class, along with related social movements and left political formations, has arisen across much of the world in a manner foreshadowed in much of Marx’s writings. In this, America is no exception. This illustrates that Marxism is not a system of predestination, but includes both elements of determinism and contingency, above all in matters of class organization and political outcomes.

in Marxism and America