Table Topics: “Optimizing the Body: From Health Protection to Genetic Embryo Modification” (Simon Ledder)
The current discussions about changing one’s body by technological means are a hot topic in academia as well as in popular culture, argues social scientist Simon Ledder. Genome editing, brain chip implants, advanced prosthetics, or neuropharamaceuticals are prominently discussed in bioethics, portrayed on television (Orphan Black, Bionic Woman) and experienced in digital games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bioshock). Some call them “Human Enhancement Technologies”, others ask what kind of society it takes to let these ideas become popular, usually pointing towards neoliberal requirements in the 21st century. While in related discourses the body, as a general concept, becomes a thing prone to manipulation at will, and certain types of bodies are represented as a horror scenario. “Disability” becomes the negative contrast foil that justifies any invasive procedures. But as disability activists and theorists have pointed out, “disability” is not foremost an essential of the body, but is a result of social and cultural factors that privilege only certain bodies. Within these discourses, however, “disability” is once more reduced to a simple somatic entity, independent of any socio-cultural processes.
At the table “Optimizing the Body: From Health Protection to Genetic Embryo Modification” he will talk about medicine and biotechnologies, contemporary and future. Together with Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty he wants to discuss what social and ethical aspects have to be considered.
Simon Ledder is Research Associate at the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities, Tübingen University. His Specialties are Biopolitics, Discourse Analysis, Disability Studies, Queer Studies, Feminist Theory, Media Studies, Sociology of the Body, Sociology of Technology, Human Enhancement Technologies, Game Studies, Film Studies, and Bioethics.