The Cyborg and the Human: Origins, Creatureliness, and Hybridity in Theological Anthropology

UoM administered thesis: Phd

Abstract

Are we cyborgs or humans? This question is at the heart of this investigation, and the implications of it are all around us. In Christian theology, humans are seen as uniquely made in the image of God (imago dei). This has been taken to mean various things, but broadly, it suggests an understanding of humans as somehow discrete from, and elevated above, other creatures in how they resemble God. Cyborgs mark a provocative attempt to challenge such notions, especially in the work of Donna Haraway, whose influential 'Cyborg Manifesto' (1991) elaborated a way of understanding cyborgs as figures for the way we live our lives not as discrete or elevated, but as deeply hybridised and involved in complex ways with technologies, as well as with other beings. Significantly, Haraway uses the cyborg to critique notions of the human rooted in theological anthropology and anthropogeny: the cyborg was not created in Eden. This assertion is the starting point of my investigation of cyborgs and humans in theological anthropology. Analysis of this position is broken down into three key concepts throughout the investigation that form the three main parts of the structure: (1) What is the significance of Eden, specifically as a point of origin? What ideas do we inherit from Genesis mythologies, and how do they influence our multitudinous understandings of not only humans, but also cyborgs, that range from the Terminator, to astronauts, to hospital patients? What does it mean to say that the cyborg cannot recognise Eden or even dream of the possibility of return?(2) If the cyborg was not created in Eden, then is it still to be considered as creaturely? How does this figure tessellate into, or challenge, notions of human nature and sin in the absence of an origin or teleology in a Garden? What commentaries of the human as created in God's image can we compare this to, and how do all of these readings bear on how we see ourselves and technologies? (3) More constructively, given that the cyborg amalgamates the organic and the mechanic, and discusses hybridity, how might this be appropriated by theological anthropology? What does it mean to say that we are hybrids? From these questions, I reflect on tensions between the cyborg and the human, and make suggestions for a theological appropriation of the cyborg figure that takes heed of the emphasis on hybridity by applying it to notions of Eden and imago dei. The overarching aim is to decentre and destabilise the human, and to refigure it within its broader networks that are inclusive of other creatures, technologies, and God.

Details

Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Aug 2016