My re-introduction and “viral mothers”

Greetings all.

Yep. I know. Awful. So much for “I’m really going to do this every week now…” — 6 months later….

But here I am.

And I’ve missed this. So I’m taking a chunk out of my stupid busy life to make it a point to write an entry today. Yes, I’m writing this entry at 7:30am. Never fear…I have coffee in hand…so the plan is that it won’t be complete nonsense.

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany concerning the kind of writing I would want to do if I intend to actually do something with this crazy degree I’m getting.

It’s Paula Treichler’s idea that “cultural interpretations of biomedical phenomena and biological catastrophes are important to the understanding of disease in a social world” – and this is truly the knot of my various strands of study. It’s where the vampires and zombies can roam freely with Foucault and Haraway living dis-harmoniously, wreaking havoc in society’s imagined boundaries of disease. It’s my job to blur those boundaries, to help raise the questions about hard science and disease and disaster that don’t get asked enough in scientific contexts. I’m taking my cue from Paula Treichler, Brad Lewis and Bernice Hausman, (my adviser, his friend who teaches at Virginia Tech, who is also my friend’s teacher–small world), Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding, etc.

So for my “re-introduction” into the blogsphere, I decided to read an article passed off to be by Brad Lewis…oh….close to a year ago. Good for me that I’ve now read it. (This article is like 10 pages long and the matter of a subway ride if you want a clue into the massive business that has been my life). The article by Virginia Tech professor Bernice Hausman is entitled “Contamination and Contagion: Environmental Toxins, HIV/AIDS, and the Problem of the Maternal Body.”

Hausman addresses a recent (and by recent I’m being broad…like a decade kind of broad) hot button topic in public health, the risks and benefits of breastfeeding. Stick with me here. (More after the fold…)

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“I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess”

This semester I am being immersed in theory. It’s overwhelming, but I appreciate the new layers it’s likely going to bring to this project. In one class I’m reading feminist theory for the first time as well as post-modernism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism – and in the other I’m drowning in the political, sociological, political, anthropological theories of community…

I have so much in here *points to head* that I need to get some of it here…I’ll try to leave class discussion to my classes and just bring what I can relate to my particular interests here – though there is still a lot that’s relevant that may be left out.

Let’s start with my introduction to cyborgs. Last week I read Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980’s” – and before I started I was so deeply skeptical of how I could bring it back to the Contagious Narrative. And yet here I am. I’m grappling with it and will likely build on this entry later in the semester when I get to read about Haraway’s use of the vampire metaphor (as I’m sure it’s different from my own).

“…a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.”–Donna Haraway

But already I’m interested in this vision of the cyborg. Something part animal, part machine. But when Haraway used the word “hybrid” to denote cyborg it became something less technology based for me… what about vampires as hybrids…clearly they are hybrids of living and undead. They are human, but not. They are animal – but machine? We could potentially see the “undeath” of a vampire as mechanical in some ways. Take a computer for example…it isn’t biological, but it is partially alive – it “thinks” – so vampires do not breathe or bleed or live – but yet they live, and devour, and turn. And there is more than one way I can think of the activities of the undead as being somewhat mechanical…or at least methodical…

And then my thought processes turn elsewhere…How do we get from there to here….

“Cyborg writing must not be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” -Donna Haraway

I like this quote. I started thinking of recognizable cyborgs and inevitably got mixed up…but here is where my mind went. I thought about Frankenstein and his creation. At first look we would consider the monster to be the cyborg. He is human and yet he was built by a human, he is man-made, part animal, parts of many animals.

But “The Fall” has become so distanced from what we feel as “our origins” that we no longer relate to Adam/Eve, but turn from it and even equate it with what we consider monstrous. If cyborg writing must not be about the fall – then the monster’s felt connection with Adam and his attempt to return to the “once-upon-a-time wholeness” that Haraway knows, we know, and Frankenstein knows does not exist then are we more cyborg than he?