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    Human Hardware: How Everyday Prosthetic Legs Become Legitimate Human Body Parts


    This is so cool--transhumanism meets disability and adaptive tech!

    --Amber @ ILRCSF



    The Center for Ethnographic Research Presents:

    Human Hardware: How Everyday Prosthetic Legs Become Legitimate Human Body
    Parts

    Cynthia Schairer
    Doctoral Candidate, University of California, San Diego

    Wednesday October 31st, 2012
    4:00-5:30
    Wildavsky Conference Room
    Institute for the Study of Societal Issues
    2538 Channing Way, Berkeley

    Abstract:
    During the London Olympic Games this summer, Oscar Pistorius attracted much attention when he became the first double amputee to compete in Olympic Track and Field. Commentary about Pistorius’ accomplishments and the controversy surrounding the possible advantage of his running prostheses represent a contemporary fascination with users of artificial legs who challenge the meaning of disability and bodily normality.

    Advances in prosthetics have also inspired academics to question the role of bodies – and their relations to technologies – in the constitution of human identities in contemporary culture. Some scholars write with excitement about the possibilities of a new age of cyborgs and hybrids, while others see bodily technologies as simply extending the modern mandate for control over self-identity.

    This talk addresses if and how these new interpretations of disability, bodies, and identity are reflected in the experiences of everyday people who use artificial legs. Using data from interviews and ethnographic observation of adults who use artificial legs, Schairer will discuss the conditions under which prosthetic legs come to be accepted as legitimate body parts. Artificial legs need not resemble organic legs in order to be credible, but they do need to conform to standards of function and appearance that vary depending on the identity of the user. While ordinary amputees do appear to enjoy greater acceptance much as celebrity-amputees do, this comes at a price; Users interviewed for this study related instances where they faced pressure to demonstrate athletic interest and ability that would have never been expected of amputees 30 years ago. Thus, an increasing social acceptance of amputations and prostheses does allow amputees to present their artificial limbs with pride, but also, paradoxically, obscures the work of living with disability.

    Bio:
    Cynthia Schairer is a doctoral candidate at University of California, San Diego in the Department of Sociology and the Science Studies Program.

    This event is free and open to the public!
    For wheelchair access please call 642-0813 one day prior to the event.

    Center for Ethnographic Research
    Institute for the Study of Societal Issues
    University of California, Berkeley
    2420 Bowditch St, MC 5670
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    cer@berkeley.edu

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