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- More Human than Human: The Work of Life in the Age of Biotechnical Reproduction
- Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Collection
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- A woman pregnant with her grandchild; a hamster in a state of suspended animation; human cells reproducing into eternity. These are some of the biotechnological innovations that seemed to blur the line between science and science fiction in the decades following the Second World War. Public accounts of these innovations emerged against the backdrop of debates in social and political thought surrounding the atrocities of two global conflagrations and, more broadly, colonialism. Legal cases and policy debates, the mainstream media and popular fiction and film all attest to the convergence of scientific innovation and geopolitical transformation in new accounts of the humanâ€”and of life itselfâ€”in the decades following the war. Questions abounded: if we can create life in a laboratory and patent it in the courts, what will happen to the basic dignity of humankind? What will happen to human relationships to other humans and to the world at large? Such questions circulated through the courts and the media, but it was in the science fictional scenarios that writers could work through the dangers and possibilities, the hopes and fears, associated with the science and register as well the emergence of new histories--scientific creation stories--for humanity in the age of biotechnology. This talk draws on the legal cases and policy debates, news accounts and especially science fictionâ€”with a focus on Ridley Scottâ€™s cinematic adaptation of Philip K. Dickâ€™s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: the 1982 cult classic Bladerunner--to chronicle the scientific creation stories that emerged to explain the radically changing figure of the human, to forecast its destiny, and to create by imagining a biotechnological world.
- Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture as Professor of English and Womenâ€™s Studies at Duke University. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science, and medicine. Her recent book, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, studies the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of "emerging infections." She is currently at work on a book-length study entitledHuman Being After Genocide, which chronicles the challenge to conceptions of human being that emerged from scientific and technological innovation in the wake of the Second World War. She is especially interested in analyzing how the language, narratives and images in mainstream media promote a particular understanding of genomic science that is steeped in (often misleading) cultural biases and assumptions. She is committed to promoting conversations among scholars from science, medicine, law and cultural studies in order to facilitate a richer understanding of these issues. Wald is the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form (Duke, 1995). Dr. Wald has served on the Executive Council of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and is currently the MLA representative to the American Council of Learned Societies; she recently completed a term as President of the American Studies Association. She has a secondary appointment in Women's Studies, is on the steering committee of ISIS (Information Sciences + Information Studies) and is a member of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and an affiliate of the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Institute for Global Health.
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- University of Florida
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- University of Florida
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- Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida