Suspending Death, Reinventing Life

My keynote argues that we are in the midst of a philosophical reinvention of what the idea of ‘life itself’ means in the context of biotechnology and its widespread commodification of biological entities and processes. This situation requires new biopolitical figures through which to theorize the social and political risks because liberal frameworks of human rights are no longer sufficient protection against the ways that vitality is extracted by capital. I find such new figures in the genres of the fantastic, and use Don DeLillo’s Zero K and Rachel Heng’s Suicide Club, two novels about life-extension technologies, to theorize a posthuman way to conceptualize living and embodiment that resists these neoliberal trajectories. 

About the speaker

Sherryl Vint is Professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Riverside.

Sherryl Vint’s current research project, The Promissory Imagination: Speculative Futures and Biopolitics, reads science fiction in the context of biopolitical theory. Expanding upon earlier work that argues science fiction functions as a supplementary discourse to the discourses of science, this book will explore the exchanges between speculative imagination and material practice in personalized medicine, agribusiness and other genomic research. Within a context in which biotechnology itself relies on speculative discourses, and one in which the economy is largely propelled by such fantasies, critical discourses of science fiction have a crucial role to play in ongoing struggles over how to imagine the future.

Dr. Vint’s work begins from the premise that popular culture both expresses the cultural anxieties and preoccupations of its contemporary audience and intervenes in the construction of cultural common sense, engaging with rather than merely reflecting surrounding technoculture. She has previously published Bodies of Tomorrow (2007), which investigates representations of the body in science fiction and in posthumanist discourses to argue for a version of posthumanism focused on expanding our connections to others rather than embracing fantasies of disembodiment, and Animal Alterity (2010), which extends this exploration of how we understand the human, and whom should be included in our ethical communities, focusing on the human/animal boundary articulated in philosophical and scientific discourses now restructured by material technoscientific practice and speculative representation. Dr. Vint has co-authored The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction(2011) and co-edited Beyond Cyberpunk (2010), The Routlege Companion to Science Fiction (2009), and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction (2009). She has also published widely on sf film and television, and most recently on the HBO’s The Wire for Wayne State UP’s Television Milestones series.

Her most recent publications are the edited collection Science Fiction and Cutlural Theory: A Reader and the special issue The Futures Industry, on the political project of imagining the future.

Dr. Vint directs the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies at UCR, where she founded the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Book Prize.

She is an editor of the journals Science Fiction Studies and Science Fiction Film and Television, and is the incoming President for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.

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