CITIZENS OF THE FUTURE: AFFECT, POSTMODERN CITIZENSHIP, AND PROSTHESIS
Degree awarded: M.A. Literature. American University
This project explores representations of subjectivity, technology, and citizenship in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. These novels portray a not-so-distant future in which current social trends like privatization and increasing drug abuse have led to apocalyptic conditions. Accelerating these changes is the fact that the more advanced society becomes technologically, the more technology affects the characters' biology, and the more it mediates their personal experiences and relationships. These conditions lead to questions of how subjectivity and citizenship are deeply transformed by technology in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic America. I examine technology as a form of prosthesis because it both integrates into the self and extends the self in these works. Theorists of culture have given an increasing amount of attention to tropes and metaphors of prosthesis that explore the general relationships between the body and technology in modernity and postmodernity, and I pursue this trend by framing the question of subjectivity and citizenship through the lens of prosthesis because it captures the material and metaphorical aspects of one's position within the state in the future. In order to examine this relationship, I use a combination of affect theory in tandem with concepts of "prosthetic emotions" and "necro citizenship" in order to extrapolate Butler's portrayal of how life is fundamentally changed by technological advances. I interpret this type citizenship as what I call prosthetic citizenship because it acknowledges a form of interconnectedness in which people reflexively affect and are affected by each other both conceptually and materially through relationships and biological conditions such as hyperempathy. Butler's protagonist, Lauren Olamina, represents a rare type of person who adapts and thrives in the chaos and uncertainty of the apocalypse and post-apocalypse and thus, represents a radical new way of being and serves as a model for how we can understand the postmodern subject and the question of citizenship.
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