From the twentieth century, we have inherited a new conception of what it means to be an embodied subject. Dramatic changes in life span and standards of health, alongside previously unimaginable advances in biomedicine, technology, labour and work practices, mean that the body that has emerged into the twenty-first century is unprecedented in its ability to challenge our idea of human identity. As we find it today, the body is an issue of choice; a product of neo-liberalism and biotechnologies, it is increasingly untouched by age, nature, labour or the passage of time.
The aim of this workshop is to employ phenomenology as the method to interrogate the future of the body and the future of medicine. The advantages of a phenomenological approach is that it provides a counterpart to the objectifying tendencies in naturalistic approaches, which treat the body in a non-specific way, as Husserl himself states, “phenomenology demands a direct personal production of the pertinent phenomenon” (Husserl 1975, 61).By employing a phenomenology that calls upon the specificity of a lived experience, we gain a much richer account of the body than would otherwise be available in a naturalistic setting.
At the same time, phenomenology alone is not enough if we wish to investigate the cultural, medical, and political dimensions of the body. A broader dialogue is therefore suggested between phenomenology and the medical humanities. With this intervention, we aim to explore the impact of biotechnologies and recent medical advances, which intervene in and transform embodied life. Examples of these technologies include implants, genetic technologies, cosmetic surgeries, smart drugs, prostheses, nanomedicine and so forth. As biotechnologies mediate embodied existence with increasing momentum, both the philosophical principles which underpin these technologies together with the embodied experiences which arise in their wake need to be considered.