Affiliated staffNeil Stephens, (External partners: Ken MacLeod, Sherryl Vint, Karen Morgan, Jean Harrington, Matthew Cole)
BackgroundThis project – now working toward a journal special issue - addresses the emergence of a particular imaginary that enrols bio/technology as a medium for animal ‘liberation’ or as a solution for crises such as climate change or species extinction. In recognising a certain historical lineage of salvationary scientific discourse vis-à-vis varied social movements this collection of papers takes a critical perspective toward this imaginary whilst also reflecting upon the very meanings of the technological and of liberation. These themes form a point of intersection between the papers which focus on specific elaborations of human/animal relations bound up in technologies including in vitro meat, de-domestication, stem cell research, cloning and techniques of uplift. In acknowledging the porosity between, and discursive exchange connecting science fiction and biotechnology the collection includes the contribution of SF writer Ken MacLeod in conversation with SF and animal studies scholar Sherryl Vint around these issues.
AimsThis project aims to enrich our understanding of the relationship between bio/technology and a particular social movement. It casts a cautious eye over assumptions of techno-liberatory narratives that might figure ‘movement’ and ‘agency’ as located in the capitalist bio-sciences against the backdrop of an assumed stasis around social practices and nonhuman materiality, or implicitly defined against other strategies perceived as low-tech. Relatedly the collection aims to move beyond overly simple normative pronouncements on either the ‘technological’ or the ‘social’ as inferior/superior strategies, but more fundamentally to challenge both the technological/social dualism and the conflation of technology with the ‘high technology’ of the molecular sciences. In this way most accounts of ‘liberatory’ changes to human/animal relations are going to be in some sense technological be that in a narrative of the forecasted widespread production of artificial meat or an alternative of promoting vegan organic agricultures.
MethodsSince the project comprises various papers there are a diverse range of research methods which encompass a conceptual foci, interdisciplinary peer to peer interview, semi-structured interviews with scientists and ethnography.
Project updateUnderstandings of crisis, the provisionality of some technological approaches, human-nature relations, contestations of liberation, tensions between Marxism and posthumanism.
PublicationsA special issue of the journal Configurations is being put together.
Further informationProject involves members from different nodes of the EGN, non-EGN UK academics, a Canadian academic and a leading British SF author.