Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment

Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment

Kelly Oliver
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment
    Book Description:

    The central aim of this book is to approach contemporary problems raised by technologies of life and death as ethical issues that call for a more nuanced approach than mainstream philosophy can provide. To do so, it draws on the recently published seminars of Jacques Derrida to analyze the extremes of birth and dying insofar as they are mediated by technologies of life and death. With an eye to reproductive technologies, it shows how a deconstructive approach can change the very terms of contemporary debates over technologies of life and death, from cloning to surrogate motherhood to capital punishment, particularly insofar as most current discussions assume some notion of a liberal individual. The ethical stakes in these debates are never far from political concerns such as enfranchisement, citizenship, oppression, racism, sexism, and the public policies that normalize them. Technologies of Life and Death thus provides pointers for rethinking dominant philosophical and popular assumptions about nature and nurture, chance and necessity, masculine and feminine, human and animal, and what it means to be a mother or a father. In part, the book seeks to disarticulate a tension between ethics and politics that runs through these issues in order to suggest a more ethical politics by turning the force of sovereign violence back against itself. In the end, it proposes that deconstructive ethics with a psychoanalytic supplement can provide a corrective for moral codes and political cliches that turn us into mere answering machines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5110-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Moral Machines and Political Animals
    (pp. 1-18)

    With advances in technoscience, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish nature from culture, the grown from the made. Geneticists can enhance the DNA of almost any living creature, including human beings. Cloning is a reality, no longer just the stuff of science fiction. New genetic engineering and organ transplantation technologies raise legal questions about the ownership of one’s own DNA and one’s own body. Who has the right to reproduce certain DNA, particularly if some DNA (disease resistant) is more desirable than other DNA (disease prone)? In laboratories, we can reproduce most things living and dead. Technologies of reproduction of...

    • ONE Genetic Engineering: Deconstructing Grown versus Made
      (pp. 21-50)

      The young runner Caster Semenya was propelled into the international media spotlight when she won the women’s world championship 800-meter race in Berlin in 2009. Her instant stardom was not the result of her being the fastest runner in the world, but rather because her competitors “accused” her of being a man and not a woman. The eighteen-year-old reportedly asked the president of Athletics South Africa, “Why did you bring me here? … No one ever said I was not a girl, but here [in Berlin] I am not” (quoted in Slot 2009). While so-called gender tests were being conducted...

    • TWO Artificial Insemination: Deconstructing Choice versus Chance
      (pp. 51-82)

      In an age when a child could have as few as one or as many as three genetic parents, maternity and paternity have become tricky business. For example, only one “parent” is necessary for cloning, while current experiments make it possible to combine nuclear DNA from one woman, mitochondrial DNA from another woman, and DNA from a man’s sperm, which makes three genetic parents. Add the contributions from a gestational carrier, who could be a third woman, and the child has four parents to whom he or she is biologically indebted, if not also genetically related; and then add still...

    • THREE Girl Powered: Poetic Majesty against Sovereign Majesty
      (pp. 85-114)

      Recently we’ve seen a growing fascination with girls and wolves, whether it is the virgin high-schooler Bella Swan fromTwilight, whose best friend turns out to be a werewolf, or sixteen-year-old virgin Katniss Everdeen fromThe Hunger Games, who hunts and kills wild dogs and other wild animals to feed her family and to have meat to trade for supplies, and is eventually chased by and forced to kill mutant wolves during the Hunger Games.¹ The title character ofHannais another hunting virgin, trained by her father to fend for herself.² Indeed, all of these girls are tough as...

    • FOUR Rearview Mirror: Art, Violence, and Sublimation
      (pp. 115-134)

      If we interpret deconstruction as a form of translation as transference, we have moved into the territory of psychoanalysis. Indeed, if poetic majesty acts to unseat sovereign majesty through the cut that carries with it rebirth, as in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, then psychoanalysis may be the discourse best equipped for articulating the dynamics of this wound that is also a source of life. In other words, psychoanalysis may provide the tools with which to analyze the thorny relationship between violence and life, particularly through the concepts of death drive and sublimation. Returning to our violent girls,...

    • FIVE Elephant Autopsy: Optic Machinery and the Scale of Sovereignty
      (pp. 137-165)

      Derrida asks us to read (hear) his seminarThe Beast and the Sovereignas a fable, similar to the fables of La Fontaine that punctuates the text. Just as La Fontaine’s fables often employ two (or more) characters—animals—to teach us lessons about political power, the seminar is the story of two characters—two animals—the beast and the sovereign, engaged in a life-and-death struggle, in which the sovereign turns out to be the more beastly of the two. If Derrida’sBeastis a fable, we might ask, what is its moral? What lessons are we to learn from...

    • SIX Deadly Devices: Animals, Capital Punishment, and the Scope of Sovereignty
      (pp. 166-187)

      Can animals be sentenced to death? Can they be assassinated, or become victims of genocide? Certainly in our common parlance, these dubious rights are reserved for man; murder, assassination, genocide, and the death penalty are proper to man alone. Even in death, we insist upon separating ourselves from the animals. Yet our practices suggest otherwise. Animals are regularly killed for “crimes” committed against humans. For example, recently in Switzerland a swan was killed for trying to drown a swimmer by sitting on him; and dogs are regularly “put down” if they are considered dangerous. Unlike humans, however, usually animals are...

    • SEVEN Death Penalties: Ethics, Politics, and the Unconscious of Sovereignty
      (pp. 188-218)

      Insofar as Western philosophy, like Christianity, begins with a scene of capital punishment—that of Socrates being sentenced and put to death—doesn’t it also have its beginnings in the death penalty? Derrida answers that philosophers from Kant to Levinas justify the death penalty and “just” wars on the basis oflex talionis, which takes us back not only to its theological roots but also to the basis of sovereignty (2004, 146).¹ For the sake of protection by the state, citizens subject themselves to state sovereignty and grant to the state, and only to the state, the power to kill....

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 219-234)
    (pp. 235-254)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 255-260)