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Transhumanism: Religion, Technoscience, Obsolescence
/ HSCI 338
/ REL 338
/ SOC 338
This interdisciplinary seminar invites students to pursue sociohistorical analysis and sustained critical discussion of the so-called “transhumanist movement” and its overriding aim: the transformation and eventual transcendence of human biological constitution; the realization, through highly speculative technoscientific means, of an enhanced or even “postbiological” existence, the so-called “posthuman condition,” “Humanity 2.0.” Through close readings of historical documents, transhumanist texts, scholarship on transhumanism, and relevant works of science-fiction film and literature, we will position the movement as an empirical conduit through which to explore the sociohistorical conditions under which transhumanist ideas have emerged, circulated, and taken up residence. To this end, we will consider transhumanism’s ties to some of the most objectionable aspects of modern technology and late capitalism; eugenics, the commodification of health, and massive investments pharmaceuticals, anti-aging medicine, and so-called “GNR” technologies (i.e. genetics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence and robotics); the movement’s affinities with neoliberalism and Euro-American (cyber) libertarian politics; and what some have pointed to as transhumanism’s racialized subtext of whiteness. We will furthermore devote considerable attention to the technological singularity, artificial intelligence, the figure of the cyborg, mind-uploading, space colonization, and cryonic suspension, all of which, like transhumanism broadly, suggest that science and technology have in some sense come to operate as powerful channeling agents for the very sorts of magical beliefs, practices, and forms of expectation and association that theorists of secularization expected modernity to displace. Lastly, throughout the course of the seminar we will take transhumanism as a provocation to think broadly and seriously about embodiment, culture, and ways of being human.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
attendance and participation, informal weekly writing, 15- to 20-page seminar paper
Anthropology and Sociology majors and Science and Technology Studies concentrators
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: