Gill Haddow

If you had to choose between animal, mechanical and human materials to replace, repair or regenerate the human body, what would you choose? If people were made to make such a hypothetical choice, what would their choices reveal about the experience of being embodied? Given that these are socially and culturally meaningful materials, how do such beliefs interact with experiences of embodiment?

In order to explore such questions, a small focus group study was undertaken followed by a large-scale representative survey making participants and respondents rank their most preferred options from a list: human 3-D bioprinted organs constructed from cells of the recipient; an organ from a known living organ donor; an organ from a deceased stranger, a mechanical device and finally an organ from a pig (a procedure known as xenotransplantation).

Findings clearly show that all the human options are most preferred for various reasons; one of which was reducing the possible risk of subjectivity alteration that came with xenotransplantation. This was therefore also part of the reason as to why non-human animal transplantation was the least wanted option. Using Sanner’s (2001) theory of ‘contamination’ as an important reference helps understand how meanings attached to organic material are porous and transcend biological boundaries between bodies. Narratives about xenotransplantation and human organ donation therefore are able through contamination processes to modify the recipient’s body and alter subjectivity. Despite these narratives of alterations occurring on the inside of the body, this problematizes the individual’s body and her identity; changing what she is inside and altering who she is on the outside.

At a point in-between these two extremes of human and non-human animal were mechanical implants, and being ‘for’ or ‘against’ mechanical implants appeared connected to fears about technology breaking and malfunctioning as well as concerns about having a ‘foreign’ device in the body.

in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs
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
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Revolt and community defence
Adam Elliott-Cooper

This chapter focuses on black resistance to British policing in the aftermath of the 2011 ‘riots’. The historical section of this chapter offers an account of a very recent history – the media reports and police and political rhetoric which began in the twenty-first century, concerned with ‘gang crime’. This provides some context for an analysis of the 2011 civil unrest and of three community-led defence campaigns. The first of these, the Tottenham Defence Campaign, is one of the many local initiatives which sprang up to challenge the increase in arrests, raids and imprisonment following the 2011 revolts. The second campaign concerns Mauro Demetrio, a young black man violently assaulted by police in the aftermath of the 2011 unrest. Finally, the chapter turns to the inquiry into the police killing of Mark Duggan, and how his family-led campaign challenged racism from the media, politicians and the criminal justice system. These forms of black community defence echo similar campaigns in previous decades and, like those outlined in Chapters 1 and 2, also draw on histories of anti-colonial struggle.

in Black resistance to British policing
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Surveillance, collective punishment and the cutting edge of police power
Adam Elliott-Cooper

This chapter explores the ways in which new powers are reproducing racism in British policing. There is further analysis of the development of the ‘all-out war on gangs and gang culture’ announced by David Cameron in 2011, which is discussed in Chapter 4. The chapter also details the ways in which new technologies, surveillance and injunctions are used to criminalise black communities and expand the use of prisons and other forms of punishment. The chapter begins by analysing counterinsurgency policing in the dying days of Empire, including the use of surveillance, mass incarceration, forced migration and coercive violence against ‘suspect communities’. Interestingly, this colonial policing also used the language of ‘gangs’ to depict the targets of state violence. This power of distortion, to portray groups of people as criminal, influences racist stereotypes in the postcolonial period. This racist ‘grammar’, argues Hortense Spillers, finds its way into our present, ‘from the semantic and iconic folds buried deep in the collective past’. Consequently, racial governance in both the colonies and modern Britain enables these forms of collective punishment to be planned, implemented and justified by state institutions, aided by popular racist cultures.

in Black resistance to British policing
The 2011 ‘riots’ in context
Adam Elliott-Cooper

This historical framing provides an analysis for the racist criminalisation of black men in twenty-first-century Britain. The chapter highlights three key ways in which police racism becomes entrenched through Britain’s imperial discourses, rehearsed over several centuries. First, gender and masculinity are framed and regulated to reproduce imperial power and the racialisation of subject populations. Specifically, ideas about both gender and race are imposed on colonised people to better exploit, control and execute violence upon them. Secondly, racialisation is constantly changing: presenting itself as fixed, it is in fact in constant flux across time and space. Thirdly, building on the previous chapter, both radical anti-racism and black feminism are shown to be vital conceptual tools for analysing the perception that black men require a distinctively punitive control. The first section of this chapter looks at how imperial discourses framed colonised men. The second section uses black conservatives in Britain as a case study to look at how black masculinity is criminalised. It looks at how these campaigners for black respectability contrast the ‘success’ of their own families and careers with the ‘failures’ of criminalised men. The final section of the chapter focuses on one particular incident – in which a criminalised black man is confronted by the police – in order to illustrate how masculine violence can be considered legitimate if it is state-led, but criminalised if it is associated with the colonised, or black people or working classes.

in Black resistance to British policing

As police racism unsettles Britain’s tolerant self-image, Black resistance to British policing details the activism which made movements like Black Lives Matter possible. Colonial legacies and newer forms of state power are used to understand racism beyond prejudice and the interpersonal: black resistance confronts a global system of racial classification, control, exploitation and violence. Adam Elliott-Cooper offers the first detailed account of grassroots anti-racist resistance to policing in Britain since the 2011 ‘riots’. British racism stretches back further than Windrush and beyond the shores of the British mainland. Imperial cultures and policies, as well as colonial war and policing, are used to highlight connections between these histories and contemporary racisms. But this is a book about resistance, considering black liberation movements in the twentieth century while utilising a decade of activist research covering spontaneous rebellion, campaigns and protest. Drawing connections between histories of resistance and different kinds of black struggle against policing is vital, it is argued, if we are to challenge the cutting edge of police and prison power which harnesses new and dangerous forms of surveillance, violence and criminalisation. The police and prison systems are seen as beyond reform, and the book argues that to imagine a world free from racism we must work towards a system free from the violence and exploitation which would make that possible.