Prosthetics and the Prosthetic Metaphor
Thursday 27th November 2014, 2 pm – 3:30 pm
Collier Room, Hild and Bede College, Durham University

The first meeting of the CMH/Wolfson Postgraduate and Early Career Medical Humanities Network for the 2014/2015 academic year is coming up. Our new network convener is Dr. Luna Dolezal, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Philosophy ( This first meeting is a discussion/reading group and will explore the theme of prosthetics and the prosthetic metaphor.

The trope of the prosthesis has become commonplace in philosophy, cultural theory, posthuman discourse and across the social sciences, utilized by scholars who are concerned with the human body’s porous and malleable nature when it comes to its interaction with tools and technology. Surpassing its meaning in the contexts of disability and medicine of an artificial limb or implement which is attached to the body in order to restore or replace a bodily lack due to illness, defect or accident, prosthesis has come to signify augmentation, enhancement and a fascination with cyborg bodies. Prosthesis, invoked in this manner, is a metaphor for the technological extension of human capacities to overcome the limitations inherent to the ‘natural’ human body.

This meeting of the postgrad/ECR medical humanities discussion group will examine the theme of the prosthetic metaphor and its role within the medical humanities and related disciplines. Topics may include but are not limited to: disability, technology, the posthuman, limb-loss, cognitive prosthetics, tools, enhancement.

Indicative questions may include, but again are not limited to:

  • Is the prosthetic metaphor useful? Or does it dangerously obscure the realities of disability and limb-loss?
  • How are developments in prosthetic technologies transforming and/or destabilizing the concepts of disability and impairment?
  • Is it reasonable or useful to consider any tool or technology a prosthesis?
  • Is there such a thing as the ‘natural’ human body?
  • How do mainstream representations of high profile prostheses users, such as the super-athletes Aimee Mullins and Oscar Pistorius, affect disability politics?
  • What is the conceptual role of cognitive prostheses?
  • Are we close to getting into an ability ‘rat-race’ with the development of prosthetic technologies?
  • What are the experiences of people living with prosthetics and how are these shaped by media/policy/fictional developments?

Once again, we are looking for one or two volunteers to provide an informal opening presentation on an aspect of their research which speaks to the theme of this session (5-8 minutes).   Please reply to Luna Dolezal if you are interested in presenting, and also to register your attendance for purposes of cake and tea.  We look forward to seeing you in November – new members always welcome!

Dr Luna Dolezal —
Department of Philosophy
Network Convenor

1 Comment

Gabrielle Hanley-Mott · June 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Is there a list of participants or was anything published as a result of this seminar? I would be interested in reading any resulting work.

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