SHIFTing the Balance: “Abject” Bodies

Part of the Performance Interventions book series (PIPI)


“I used to have a body”: This phrase haunts us as we age, are injured, become disabled; it is a fear as well as a fascination. Science fiction, cyborg bodies, the hope for technological cures all attract us as we negotiate the limits of our own bodies. Some bodies remain healthy longer, others fit the “norms” of a given society more easily, but ultimately it is our bodies that fail us, yet bodies both real and imagined drive how we function in the world. An attachment to technologies has assuaged some corporeal angst; computer programs, medical technologies, and prosthetics all assist and augment bodies to function more easily, or in some cases just to function. In this chapter, the focus is on “abject” bodies in society and their transforming counterparts in cyborg-performance; these are bodies that are in process, bodies that, as Butler writes, are excluded in the process of “subject” formation. But the abject bodies of this chapter, disabled, disembodied, mechanical, and relegated to the outskirts, are all in their own ways already subjects; considering them under the designation of abject is a problematic, but also necessary, identification to reframe differing abilities. While I risk in these pages the critique of reification of terms like “abject,” I do so as a working through, as a process of shifting such terms in the public imaginary. It is too easy to skip to utopic or dystopic conceptions of cyborgs and forget the bodies that constitute their construction.


Motion Capture Audience Member Technological Language Aging Body Technological Extension 
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© Jennifer Parker-Starbuck 2011

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