Chris Hables Gray, ed., The Cyborg Handbook

New York and London: Routledge, 1995; 546 pp., ill. b. & w.

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This guide brings together critical essays on the genealogy, science and imagination of cyborgs in ways that are relevant and culturally specific. The term “cyborg,” imputable to Manfred Clynes, by now attaches to wherever a “human-machine living system” (p. 5) is imagined, invented or produced. Hence this text probes the problematic discontinuity between humans and machines. The Cyborg Handbook is to be experienced as a chart around and across suspicion and fascination.

The audience completely filled Outpost’s modestly sized space

Cyborgism, the ideology, and cyborgology, the attitude and the praxis, admit the transmutation of the body and its intelligences along with the crosscutting of recombinant machineries. Their combined effect, Donna Haraway theorizes, results in “situated knowledges.” Enter the cyborg. Cyborg culture locates an intimate conjoining of what is built, imagined and commodified. Not just the economic, semiotic, technological and mythical, but also the specific and the universal exist within its order. Such that, in its explication, these essays do not simply fuse aspects of its biological, theoretical, philosophical and communicative components along with its terms, but also try to bring to issue the implications and consequences of cyborg technology for our present and future lives. The sheer size of this volume prevents more elaborate discussion here. But, from the standpoint of cultural studies, medicine, philosophy, anthropology and visio-virtual practice, among others, what this collection begins to formulate is the description of a fascinating and comprehensive encounter. S. D.

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