Research AREAS

Petri Dish
Technology and Reproduction / Bioscience and Assisted Reproduction in the Medical Humanities. NEW.

As of 2020, this is a new field of research for me but feeds into my extensive research on posthumanism and technology. I have been awarded an ISSF/Wellcome grant for 12 months to research 'Cyborg Conception'. The project will start in October 2020. Currently, research questions for ‘Cyborg Conception’ include: How far does the technologizing of reproduction shape posthuman discourses in contemporary literature and culture and, conversely, in what ways are new family formations made possible by the literary and cultural imagination as much as by assisted reproductive technologies?

This project will investigate how issues surrounding assisted reproduction are narrativized in contemporary culture and how the technologizing of reproduction has shaped posthuman discourse since the first successful human IVF pregnancy in 1978.  To respond to my research questions, I will investigate three genres. The first concerns how fertility is articulated to children and young people; for example, the educational importance for public understandings of fertility health and the social and emotional wellbeing of children conceived through technological intervention. The second genre is life writing; an important strand is graphic novels which finds a natural companion in infographics used by medical professionals and businesses to convey complex fertility issues/options to patients. The third genre is science fiction after 1978 to investigate how assisted reproduction in literature has helped demystify fertility and explore ethical anxieties. The capacity of science fiction to imagine future medical technology will push the project to consider the future of assisted conception.

To focus the primary texts, I will concentrate on three thematic strands: how each genre addresses newly visible family constructions; how technologizing conception readdresses the relationship between foetus and mother; and how cyberverse navigates multi-genre narratives of assisted reproduction and helps new family formations gain visibility.

 

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Identity and Displacement

Whilst I have a particular research specialism in American literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, my work extends to consider the wider, global dimensions of the literature I study. Additionally, my expertise in the dynamic interaction and cultural exchange within the transnational space of online communities offers a new examination of identity, nation, and critical geographies in the contemporary. Futhermore, I am fascinated by how borders between online and offline spaces are becoming increasingly meaningless at a time when national borders are being shored up. My next big research project will focus on the aftermath of international crises such as Bhopal, Centralia, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Love Canal, asking how these fracturing events are explored in literature. I am particularly interested in the representation of displacement, migration (through evacuation), and life-changing injury with its personal and communal consequences. 

Human Condition, Posthuman, Digital Spaces, and AGI

I have explored ideas of the human condition from early Greek philosophy up to Hannah Arendt's definition of the Human Condition to concepts of the Cyborg, Transhuman and Posthuman. From how we will define the human legally in the future, to ideas of immortality, I've published and lectured on a wide range of issues surrounding the pivotal question 'what does it mean to be human?' Specifically, I examine how the human condition has been affected by technological developments. I am not only interested in evolving human infrastructure but also in how global and networked communities complicate and recalibrate ideas of geography, nation, and identity. By examining the ambition in transhumanist thought for mind-uploading into advanced ‘shells’, I also work on disability studies and body dissociation through mind ‘ascension’ and disembodied existence. Reflecting on Arendt’s claim that to migrate from the planet and physical experience would rewire the human condition, I think through the complex issues of identity, exile, dispersal, and digital migrancy that emerge from reducing self and community to data.

 

War/Genocide/Apocalypse

Although I have examined genocidal activities including the Shark Island camps 1905-7, most of my research involves World War II. I have conducted a lot of research on Primo Levi, a chemist deported to Auschwitz in 1944, who wrote about his experience of the Holocaust. In my work I have investigated the psychology behind genocidal activities through the lens of psychological doubling (heavily influenced by the work of Robert J. Lifton). To date, much of my work on apocalypse surrounds ideas of technological apocalypse. Along this vein, I have also completed research on ruination (from derelict buildings to explosion debris) and explored how ruins help us to imagine future apocalyptic landscapes. With specific expertise as a war scholar I am further concerned with how selfhood and community are disrupted and displaced through conflict, technologies of war, and crises. I also investigate the impact of evacuation on communities, the aesthetics and politics of abandoned spaces, and new structures for ‘artificial’ living (such as subterranean shelters).

Nuclear Technology

I have conducted research into the development of nuclear technology in the 20th Century. Alongside examining how nuclear weaponry significantly impacted 20th Century life, I have also researched nuclear power itself. As a cultural historian, I have investigated how society (mostly focused on UK, America, Japan, and Russia etc) has reacted to nuclear developments and have spoken at length about nuclear 'ambivalence' during the Cold War years. I have conducted a great deal of research on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and accidents including Windscale, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island