Thesis Info

Thesis Title
The Paradox of the Posthuman in Science Fiction/Techno-Horror and Visual Media
Julie Clarke
2nd Author
3rd Author
PhD Cinema
Number of Pages
The University of Melbourne
Thesis Supervisor
Professor Barbara Creed
Supervisor e-mail
bacreed AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Associate Professor Jeanette Hoorn
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Culture and Communications
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
philosophical anthropology, humanism, eugenics, cybernetics, posthuman, cyborgs in films, visual art of Stelarc and Orlan
Abstract: 200-500 words
A central aim of this thesis is to explore the paradox of the posthuman, which has been theorized in a number of different contexts. Its main definitions include the extended (prosthetic/hybrid), enhanced (genetically engineered/surgically modified) and extruded (virtual) body. I examine the way the term is deployed in science fiction/techno-horror films and visual media that have emerged at the end of the twentieth century. I consider the changes, contradictions and ideologies inherent in the posthuman and how these affect the discourses of the body. A major focus is on the way the posthuman is defined as oppositional to humanist thinking while simultaneously endorsing its major tenets, such as a belief in the ‘uniqueness’ of human nature. I argue that far from disavowing humanist ideologies, posthuman ontology is embedded in humanist eugenic and utopian ideals through a belief that advanced technologies will improve the human condition. Whilst I explore the paradox of the posthuman, my major aim is to unveil the continuing power of the humanist belief that individuals should use the new technologies to transcend their flawed and finite existence, even if this means that what they have valued as human is contested. I critically evaluate a series of paradoxes that underpin such an endeavour. The humanist agenda to separate the human from the non-human or monstrous other continues in the posthuman era in the attempt by biomedicine to eliminate unwanted genetic characteristics from the human gene pool, whilst unwittingly polluting the species by the introduction of prosthetics and transgenics. This creates anxiety for humanists because of the erasure of the boundary between the human and not-human. A contradiction is exposed in posthuman thinking which advocates that technological developments improve the human species, whilst positing it as a polluting and penetrative force. Although the hybridisation of the human with non-human others provides a strategy for the redesign of a stronger human body, paradoxically, this strategy recasts the human as cybernetic, prosthetic and monstrous. Indeed technological developments and hybrid activity have made transparent humanity’s dependence upon non-human others. These and other contradictions are played out in the imaginary domain of popular culture and new media. Humanists deny the existence of a power outside of human agency and yet engage in the rhetoric of body transcendence in cyberspace interactions. I argue that for the most part science fiction/techno horror films remain a vehicle for the promotion of secular humanism; however they fail to sustain some of their major tenets in that they cannot avoid the recognition of the unique qualities of the non-human as well as the non-human qualities of the human species. The desire to be assimilated with our technologies, evident in popular media, reveals that the human species continues to keep itself open to the possibilities that developments in technologies offer. I argue that anxieties abut the emerging posthuman era are finding expression through the popular domains of film and performance art which directly engage with the crucial question of what it means to be human in the era of the posthuman.