Call For Papers - The 21st Century Body
24 January 2012
18th May 2012, London (Hosted by UCL)
Exciting developments in the life sciences and their application in biotechnology are helping to provide pioneering cures and therapies for inherited and degenerative diseases.
Consider genomics and genetic based therapies, neuroscience and neuropharmacology, ICT implants and prosthetics, nanomedicine and care of the ageing and you will see how the way in which we perceive ourselves and those around us is slowly being recast. As our knowledge and its application continues to grow and expand, the range, scope and magnitude of what we are able to achieve seems to be limitless. This interdisciplinary symposium is convened in order to build capacity as well as consolidate existing scholarship on perspectives on the human body and identity in the face of new advances in emerging technologies.
Technology forecasters point to advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology as
an ‘enabling technology’ which opens up further opportunities when
combined with other technologies. This “convergence” of new emerging
technologies therefore becomes a matter of great debate. This is seen, for
example, when advances in nanoscience converge with developments
in biotechnology, which also utilise developments in information
technology to capture and simulate human abilities using artificial
intelligence systems and, more controversially, cognitive science. As the
animal-human distinction becomes increasingly blurred, it is plain to see
the increasing growth of human power over nature in all of its forms
including traditional and contemporary understanding about human nature
itself. More than just speculative science fiction, talk of brain implants
and neural imaging, cyborg enhancement and virtual reality simulation is
suddenly becoming a pressing reality.
At this time we are faced with a key
question: what does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? A series of
identity crises emerge. Against the backdrop of developments in ICT,
and especially in virtual contexts we are keen to ensure that our
identities are protected and can be authenticated appropriately, without
fear of them being reconstructed by others. Likewise, concern is expressed
over the question of privacy and surveillance when we encounter new forms
of identifying technologies such as biometrics which could challenge our
freedom and dignity. As genetic and neuroscience technologies evolve, they
provoke and unsettle some of our traditional perceptions of who and what
It is envisaged that this symposium will contribute to the conversation on this
theme and by drawing from insights and ideas from across the disciplines,
the aim will be to chart challenges to, and changes in perceptions of
identity and the human body in the 21st century.
Some key questions this symposium will aim to address include the following:
- Is human identity being transformed, redefined or superseded through new developments in medicine and technology?
- Do these new emerging technologies present as radical and revolutionary changes to how we see ourselves (as is sometimes claimed)? Or, are they in fact no different to their predecessors?
- How are we to evaluate or assess the moral significance of these new technologies to our identity as humans?
- What does it mean to have identity and to be identifiable in the 21st Century?
- Are new technologies helping to redefine what we recognise as the human body? Are they in some ways helping to make the human body redundant? If so, in what ways?
- What are the social, ethical and policy implications of these changes, both locally and globally, as we increasingly encounter the rapid expansion of biotechnologies worldwide?
- Is altering the shape and appearance of the body contributing to our loss of contact with the body? How does this affect traditional ideas about the mind/body distinction?
- Ageing and immortality;
- Artificial intelligence; the Turing test; machine understanding;
- Artificial life; computational biology;
- Cognitive science;
- Converging technologies (nano-bio-info-cogno);
- Ethical and social implications of advances in emerging technologies;
- Human enhancement;
- Implant technology;
- Medical anthropology;
- Matteo Bregonzio, PhD research candidate, Computer Science Department, Queen Mary University, London
- Dr Yasemin J. Erden, CBET, St Mary's University College, Twickenham
- Deborah Gale, MA, King’s College London
- Matt James, Director, BioCentre
- Alison MacDonald, PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University College London
- Aaron Parkhurst, PhD research candidate, Medical Anthropology, University College London
We invite submission of abstracts in the first instance, with a word limit of
around 500-750 words (maximum), and not including references. The abstract
should clearly outline main arguments and conclusions of the paper. On the
basis of these abstracts, the academic organising committee will compose a
short list of speakers to be invited to submit full-length papers
for presentation at the symposium, which will be held in London in May
All abstracts must be submitted via EasyChair (in a Word attachment; without
inclusion of personal details to allow for blind reviewing):
Successful papers will be considered for inclusion in a special publication on
the same theme.
- Tuesday 28th February 2012 Deadline for submission of abstracts (500-750 word limit)
- Monday 30th April 2012 Final version of papers to be submitted ahead of symposium
- 18th May 2012 Symposium, University College London
For more information on submissions, please contact the organising committee
The organising committee is grateful for the support provided by BioCentre and the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
Details about registration will be released in due course. There will be no fee for speakers or participants.