OR conferences, that is. (Well, Christmas too, I guess, but I’ve still got a few weeks to do the whole purchasing of presents, which is good given I’m behind on absolutely everything…) I’m attending CSAA (the Cultural Studies Association of Australiasia, which I am often disappointed at) and ACRAWSA (the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association, which I’ve only attended once before and found pretty interesting) in Adelaide, not least because I get free accommodation… aka mum and dad’s place. In a sneaky move, I’m sticking around in Adelaide until just after Christmas before flying back (on research funding, which I figure is okay, given the whole presenting-two-papers-in-a-week thing). This does, however, mean that blogging will be light… erm… lighter… potentially faded to a kind of spectral figure that never quite resolves… for the next few weeks. When I get back I’m going to be in hyperdrive thesis-freak-out mode (since I seem to be heading into that territory already, I hate to think what it’s going to be like when I’m in serious editing stage). I’m not going to jinx myself here by declaring a submission date, since every time I tell someone I feel slightly guilty because I’m almost sure I’m not going to make it. Seriously, I should be Catholic I’m so good at the guilt thing.
My two papers for the conferences, which I may or may not put bits of up here, are incredibly different (which always seems a good plan at the abstract stage, less and less as the conference gets closer and closer…). The first is on transhumanism and bioconservatism. I’m basically sketching out how and why transhumanism’s apparently radical challenge to the idea of the human is in no way profound enough, and in many ways sneaks bioconservatism’s essentialising tendencies in the back door. I like the idea of this paper, even if it’s broad brush strokes. I’m hoping it’ll be fun to listen to. I’m still kicking around the idea of including bits of Scott Westerfeld‘s awesome young adult ‘increasingly inaccurately named trilogy’ (in the vein of great sci-fi, so we forgive), Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras, mostly because I like them a lot, even where I think he’s overly optimistic. (I guess we can’t entirely depress all the kiddies out there ;-)) I’ll post a critical review here sometime soon, but I want to re-read the early books again, since its been a little while.
The second paper develops out of the train of thought I posted here, and its interaction with this post of s0metim3s. Basically, I’m arguing that the medical conception of the human body informs the imago of the body politic of Australia, already, as Gatens has argued, a white male body. As a result, refugees are regularly conceived of as disease/d, penetrating (I’m trying to decide how much to draw through the heteronormativity of this body…) Indeed, over and over the anti-refugee parts of the community articulate a concern about the diseases these refugees bring with them: tuberculosis, HIV, and leprosy (apparently). In some cases, the very number of refugees living in Australia is articulated as a threat to the body politic.
The equation between the Australian body politic and the white male body means that these appeals already have the truth-effects of medical power/knowledge attached to them. Thus we have appeals to take ‘preventative’ measures such as the excision of Australia’s islands for the purposes of immigration—a kind of circumcision‚ as recommended in South Africa this year, which as s0metim3s pointed out, can also be construed as a kind of leprous breaking-down of the body. Obviously hovering in the background here is Derrida’s work on autoimmunity, but that’s probably where that theory will stay—in the background. Both these papers feel a little on the obvious side to me, but I’m hoping that that will just mean that they prove comparatively contained and a little less crazy-theoretical. I have a thesis to finish, after all! I hope everyone’s end-of-year guff is going alright out there…