The history of the body and the history of technology have similar foci. The proposed special issue of the journal ‘Body Politics’ (Journal for the History of the Body) will examine the concept of hybrid and technified bodies in modern history. Articles will analyse the relationship between bodies and technology in several historical contexts between the 19th and the 21st century.
Anson Rabinbach’s groundbreaking Human Motor (1990) prompted increased historical research on the relationship between bodies and technology. This has enriched our understanding of different perceptions and representations of artificial bodies in the modern era. This debate came into sharp relief in the debate on cyborgs. In this special issue, our main focus will not be on whether artificial body modifications have new features that allow us to label bodies cyborgs. Instead, we invite contributions, which adopt new and innovative ways to investigate technified body practices within their specific technological environment. The field of study is open to either work, household or leisure-time environments.
Based on our concept of bodies as interfaces between technology and the humane, our special issue seeks to shed light on everyday practices. We welcome microhistorical approaches, which strengthen the user’s perspective on technology, i.e. the adaptation of technology is of foremost interest in everyday contexts of body-technology interactions.
Contributions may focus on different interests, e.g. embodied knowledge, physical experiences in technological contexts or the ‘momentum’ of technologies or bodies. Topics include, but are not limited to:
- Reproduction technology (contraceptives, artificial insemination). Everyday physical practices produced new concepts of corporeality. So that on the one hand, this fostered the acceptance of new technologies. And on the other hand, new self-conceptions emerged of what defines a ‘natural’ body;
- Visual history and/or sound studies. Bodies can be analysed as instruments of everyday performances to construct stable images of the self. Based on (audio)visual sources, contributions could contribute to the history of subjectivity;
- Bernward Joerges, a sociologist of technology, highlighted the crucial role of bodies in the transplantation system with their extensive networks of transportation and communication. Use-centred approaches provide possibilities for uncovering bodies as an integral part of networks and technological systems. For example, individual body-centred practices that interact with the emergence of technical complexity, which in turn, affect changes in corporeality;
- The connection between technology in the service sector and the history of the body is still to be explored. Popular culture provides good case studies for study. For example, Jerry Lewis’ typewriter reveals the physical consequences of work on bodies in the service sector post-war world (Who’s Minding the Store?, 1963);
- Technologies of surveillance and discipline as electronic monitoring, panoptical control or video cameras offer good examples for power relations in the context of bodies and technologies. Concrete forms of discipline, control or governmentality may be analysed in their relation to technified bodies;
- Effects of technology can also be investigated through the example of animal bodies (e.g., (microchipped pets or turbo cows).
Body Politics – Zeitschrift für Körpergeschichte (Journal for the History of the Body):
During the past twenty years, scholarly research in the history of the body has proliferated. This online journal attempts to represent and contribute to the field’s development in all its facets. It publishes articles in German or English. All contributions have gone through a double-blind peer review process and appear free of charge in the open access format. Currently, Body Politics focuses primarily on Western Europe and North America in the period between 1850 and 2000. We wish, however, to expand this regional focus to include other regions.
Timeline for proposals:
Please send your proposal for consideration for inclusion in this special issue in either German or English. We ask for a short abstract (ca. 400 words) and a short CV by the 15th of February 2017 to Karsten Uhl (Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Christian Zumbraegel (University of Wuppertal, email@example.com). If we accept you proposal the deadline for first drafts is the 1st of August 2017. Our special issue is planned for publication in early 2018.