Hospitality of the Matrix

Hospitality of the Matrix: Philosophy, Biomedicine, and Culture

Irina Aristarkhova
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Hospitality of the Matrix
    Book Description:

    The question "Where do we come from?" has fascinated philosophers, scientists, and artists for generations. This book reorients the question of the matrix as a place where everything comes from ( chora, womb, incubator) by recasting it in terms of acts of "matrixial/maternal hospitality" producing space and matter of and for the other. Irina Aristarkhova theorizes such hospitality with the potential to go beyond tolerance in understanding self/other relations. Building on and critically evaluating a wide range of historical and contemporary scholarship, she applies this theoretical framework to the science, technology, and art of ectogenesis (artificial womb, neonatal incubators, and other types of generation outside of the maternal body) and proves the question "Can the machine nurse?" is critical when approaching and understanding the functional capacities and failures of incubating technologies, such as artificial placenta. Aristarkhova concludes with the science and art of male pregnancy, positioning the condition as a question of the hospitable man and newly defined fatherhood and its challenge to the conception of masculinity as unable to welcome the other.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50408-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    This book is a systematic study of the philosophical, biomedical, and cultural conceptions of the matrix as it relates to the notion of hospitality. Throughout the centuries, thinkers have been fascinated with generation, with questions about how we come into being, where we come from, and how the world was created. In fact, most mythological, cosmological, and religious stories start with some version of genesis, a story about the creation of the world and of living beings. Western culture is no different, even if it has historically fused the mythological, scientific, and metaphysical aspects of these generation narratives. As Joseph...

  5. 1 Journeys of the Matrix: In and Out of the Maternal Body
    (pp. 10-28)

    This chapter explores a simple question, “What is the matrix?” The term matrix and questions about it came to the forefront of popular culture in the late 1990s, when the movie The Matrix became a global box office success and a cultural phenomenon. Today the notion of the matrix is variously employed to mean “an array of numbers,” “mold,” “virtual reality,” and a “symbolic order that structures reality for us.” However, though this term also meant “the womb” and “mother” for a significant portion of its existence (even as late as the end of the nineteenth century), this relationship to...

  6. 2 Materializing Hospitality
    (pp. 29-48)

    The matrix derives its philosophical, cultural, and scientific relevance more from what it “does/produces” than from what it “is” or is defined to be. Such an understanding helps us recognize in the current resurrections of the matrix through a variety of cultural and scientific discourses and practices what I have called a search for hospitable spaces. Hospitality has been presented in recent studies as either an intimate (private) or a communal (public) welcoming of strangers into one’s house or country or territory. Consequently, it has been viewed as the foundation of culture and ethics. Thus far, however, most conventional conceptions...

  7. 3 The Matter of the Matrix in Biomedicine
    (pp. 49-86)

    This chapter examines biomedical notions of the matrixial/maternal with a particular focus on reproductive immunology and its study of the so-called maternal-fetal interface, namely, the placenta and fetal membranes that connect the maternal and embryonic/fetal tissues. I focus on reproductive immunology for three main reasons. First, this field has most carefully and recently studied pregnancy as a relation between maternal and embryonic tissues, with increasing attention given to the maternal aspects of embryonic development. Second, the immunological discourse on the nature of the relation between the maternal and the embryonic has been formative of and informed by biomedical discourses on...

  8. 4 Mother-Machine and the Hospitality of Nursing
    (pp. 87-126)

    The path to exploring the matrix as nutrix (as that which nurtures) lies through the improbable topic of ectogenesis, or mother as machine. Ectogenesis forces us to decide what we consider the mother to be. There is nothing more revealing about (our understanding of) a phenomenon or a thing than its reproduction in a narrative or an artifact. What does Plato mean when he talks about receptacle/chora/matrix as a wet nurse of all being and becoming? What does Aristotle mean when he says that mother is a “nutritive,” nourishing matter that “adds” to development? To approach these questions, I turn...

  9. 5 Male Pregnancy, Matrix, and Hospitality
    (pp. 127-168)

    POP! The First Male Pregnancy, or Male Pregnancy, is an art project created by Lee Mingwei and Virgil Wong that exists today mostly as an interactive Web site, When I first presented a lecture on this project to my class and later to wider audiences, almost half my listeners thought it was an actual case—that a man had become pregnant. However, at the same time that I was giving these lectures in 2008, the topic of male pregnancy became a global media sensation, embodied in the figure of Thomas Beatie. He is a transgender man who kept his...

  10. Conclusion: Hosting the Mother
    (pp. 169-174)

    This book embarked on an effort to reintroduce the maternal back into the cultural, biomedical, and technological imaginaries of generation and reproduction through the notion of hospitality. Throughout the book I have argued that it is not what the matrix is but rather what it enables that empowers a critical engagement with the maternal. And what it enables is hospitality through the generative and nursing practices of the matrixial/maternal. These practices are not tied to some essentialized notions of the feminine or the maternal, whereby what is hospitable is so because it is essentially feminine or maternal or whereby the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 175-196)
  12. References
    (pp. 197-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-232)