Disabled Monsters: performing prosthetic technologies and ambivalent bodies

Alexander, Charlotte
Joseph, Frances
Charlton, James
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Master of Creative Technologies
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Auckland University of Technology

This practice-led research endeavours to recognise the consequences of dualistic knowledge systems on the way people with disabilities and their assistive technologies are framed, understood, and communicated. The researcher’s own hearing ‘impairment’ and hearing aids are used as a springboard for the research.

A textile-based practice is utilised by the researcher — who here is articulated as researcher-as-event — as a vehicle for conceptual and material exploration of the hearing loop, an assistive hearing technology. This practice is used to understand the way in which a making practice might shed light on bodies not as static wholes, but as fragmented, becoming-bodies in motion.

The work delves into the cyborg, an associate of the monster — the ambivalent figure that exists at once as self and other, friend and enemy, disrupting binary hierarchies. Science Fiction discourse is employed as an approach to understand the ways in which our fictional representations of the monster/cyborg impact our perception of prosthetic devices, and those who use these. The notion of the super body and the transplantable body are employed as a method to reveal how these ambivalent bodies lend themselves to reactions of abhorrence and fascination. Through Science Fiction narratives, the prosthesis becomes an emancipating friend, a too powerful enemy, or simply a fearful reminder of the frailty and fragmentation of the body.

Notions of performativity and assemblage are considered in their capacity to address the way in which monstrous/cyborg/disabled bodies might not perform against ambivalence, but through and with ambivalence. This research presents a way of considering the monstrous/disabled/cyborg body not as partial, but as fluid, connected.

This research does not intend to domesticate the monster, but to embrace it. For if we are all monsters, no one is.

E-textiles , Disability studies , Assemblage , Cyborg , Prosthesis , Technology and embodiment
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