where does the body stand as a cyborg/where does the body stand in memoir /where does the body stand in our post-most (things) world?
As I wrote down thoughts about Preciado’s Testo Junkie and tried to think about the body’s position – much of it revolving around a course on material culture last year – I was struck by the religious vocabulary that sprung up in my sentences. I found myself describing the body as a “holy island,” as “sacred,” and possessing “sanctity.” Perhaps a result of my own (silly) writing, but it was there nonetheless. The body feels like something beyond manipulation to many of us, though we may, and I do, have tattoos or piercings. Obviously, what Preciado talks about is another step – or is it? The body is a cyborg in many ways. The way we sit and stand is affected by the time we spend looking at computers and our thumbs sit hovering over our phones more comfortably than anything. These extensions of our bodies turn us into cyborgs already, but so did the pen, chair, etc. Cyborg, then, by extension as well as internal manipulation – but these extensions often have internal manipulation consequences too.
Preciado’s manipulation of the body is a political continuation of the body as cyborg with emphasis on gender manipulation and the fantastic term “gender hacking” which compares, once again, the body to a machine or computer. The body is a technobody or cyborg in many senses, whether by the chemicals we ourselves put into it (see discussions concerning manufactured meat) or by the technology we use as extensions of ourselves. To hack it is perhaps to take ownership back.
– something that can also be done in writing; in memoir. The body in memoir is manipulated on the page, indeed, often concealed by the page and by the words that detail it. Memoirs are about the mind; about memory, about emotion, about change, but they often ignore the body – despite the body’s inherent connection to temporality and memory. The things that happen to us happen to our bodies. Preciado’s “memoir” is placed in her body and is reported almost from within it. What of a memoir that traces the body as a beginning point for memory/temporality/the self?
The body of Preciado(‘s) is political. It is used to take ownership from the technologies out there that have created a cyborg out of it. Writing a memoir can be a similar process of coming to grips with or winning back the self – the self as opposed to the body. Is this distinction necessary because words are so foreign to the body? Unnatural as if they want to manipulate the body. Is Preciado’s manipulation of her body with words as powerful as with testosterone? Politically, and for the spread of her manifesto, yes.
Where does the manipulation end? Is there a skeleton under the skin/sculpture? Does the cyborg ever run into anything inherently natural? Or like the prospect of a postgender world, are we living in a postnatural world – or at least in postnatural bodies?
What are we “pre-“ or present (with) if we are postgender, postnatural, postnational? The body’s future can only be uncertain but also all the more autonomous. The individual, liberated from religious vocabulary and worship of the body’s naturalness, is free to manipulate the body in a way that realizes the self, as in a memoir. It is then possible to write the memoir with the body – the body becomes a site for this manipulation/realization.
**art by Julia Brow, 2012