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The Posthuman
ENGL 165EC - Spring 2003,  Rita Raley
Tue, 4/29 Gender, Sex, and the Posthuman

“Wounds heal quickly in VR” (Shannon McRae 248)
  1. Baudrillard says that AIDS and cancer – and, we could add, SARS – may be the price we are paying for our own system. What does he mean by this?

  2. Compare Lisa Nakamura to Shannon McRae on the issue of fluid vs. fixed conceptions of identity: "In VR, mind and body, female and male, gay and straight, don’t seem to be such natural oppositions anymore, or even natural categories to assign to people” (McRae 245); “It can be easily argued that the free experimentation with gender roles that MUDs allow only enforces preconceived ideas of gender” (McRae 249-50); “Even people who experiments with gender lead them to discover that it is not a fixed fact still find that each gender carries for them a set of assumptions, sometimes deeply unconscious ones, about what femaleness and maleness actually is” (McRae 256).

  3. On the performative aspect of identity, see Julian Dibbell: "the commands you type into a computer are a kind of speech that doesn't so much communicate as make things happen, directly and ineluctably, the same way pulling a trigger does."

  4. In her interview, "Sex and Death among the Cyborgs," Sandy Stone first describes a real "simstim" or "transspecies" experience: a 1960s experiment that used chronic implants in order to allow her to hear 'as a cat'. She cites multi-user virtual communities as the next experimental site for being as and being with the Other. Her interviewer then asks:

    Themes of changing sex pop up everywhere in the media these days, especially in relation to cyberspace fantasies. Gibson has a lot of "trannie" stuff sprinkled throughout his work. Among a lot of really hip young hackers, genderfuck drag is now practically de rigueur. In the movie Hackers, the ultra-élite hackers who step in to save the day at the end of the film are these totally flaming queens. Why do you think high tech and transgender go together so easily?

    SS: Because people involved with high tech are frequently more inquisitive, more open to new experiences, and right now the cutting edge of new experience is transgender. It's a momentary thing, because the high-tech folk will age and become more conservative, and high tech itself will become more mainstreamed. But transgender will always be part of human culture. There will always be gendernauts.


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