A recent call for submissions to the journal Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies makes me think (again and again and again) about the unfathomable gulf between on the one hand biomedical practice and on the other hand literary and cultural studies about biomedicine.
Concentric asks for papers for an issue on ‘bios’ — i.e., the old Greek word for ‘life course’ which has been used by post-thinkers since Foucault (Agamben, Hardt, Negri and others):
How then are we now to rethink human life in terms of our increasingly intimate relations with machines, perhaps even our posthumanity? How are we to evaluate our “prosthetic life”? How are we now to define, interpret, understand concepts of law and polis (government, nation-state), state power, capitalism and globalization, in relation to human and also earthly plant and animal life (bios, ecos)? What new and unforeseen power struggles, perhaps even conflicts between human and non-human, life and death, might now be coming into play? In this era of the new bios, and new ecos, must we establish a new bio-(eco-)ethics, construct a new bio-(eco-)subjectivity?
We must ask once again, as philosophers asked thousands of years ago, “What makes us live?” “What ensures our existence?” “What is it that we call human life?” Can we look at (our own human) life anew and write about it afresh? How may the traditional literary genres, and specifically those concerned with life-writing, the writing of memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, be changing in terms of their form and content and their media of expression? What is the significance of “life-writing” at this particular historical moment?
This is all very mainstream ad nauseam — I always wonder if these literary and cultural studies guys have ever paid a visit to a life science lab? And what would their jargon sound like if they had?