University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

April 30, 2014: Rüdiger Kunow on Engineering Perfection

Engineering Perfection: Cultural Politics and Poetics of Life in the Age of Biotechnology

Download as: audio, small video, or original.


Download as: audio, small video, or original.

“In this paper, I will follow up the proposition that breakthroughs in the biotechnical sector are fundamentally changing our understanding of human life, especially in areas such as reproduction, illness, old age and death. These transformations are co-evolving with another equally transformative development in the public sphere: neoliberal governance. There is a shared logic at work in both areas which I seek to capture by the term ‘preemption.’ Originating in contractual law but now circulating widely in many areas of public debate—more so in the US than in other capitalist nations—preemptive thinking focuses on timely intervention to control and possibly eliminate future risks even before they emerge. In its biomedical applications, preemption is a proleptic project to re-engineer human life to enhance its performance and eliminate health and age-related dysfunctions. Both planning and choices in this regard are at every step of the way penetrated by market relations. This situation raises important ethical concerns about the future of less-than-perfect forms of human life which the paper will address with a view toward the role of the Humanities in this unfolding debate.”

This talk occurred on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, at 4:00pm in Crosby Seminar Room, Northrop.

The Coming of Age—to the Humanities

Tuesday, April 29, 12:00-2:00pm
325 Nicholson Hall

This paper seeks to solicit the interest of students of the Humanities for “old age” as a field of investigation. For this purpose it identifies a number of areas where “old age” as a name for human life in time, as a cultural script, a biomedical condition, and a social-political status, can enter into a conversation with other disciplinary interests. The cultural normativities of later life, the corpo-realities of the “old age” experience, as well as questions of political agency are investigated. The talk will conclude with a brief reflection on how a concern with old age requires the Humanities to move beyond a representational critique to consider ethical questions concerning the presence of less-than-perfect human life in in the public sphere of modern democracies.

Kunow-Headshot-cropRüdiger Kunow is Chair of the American Studies program at Potsdam University. He served as the speaker of various international research projects, including a TransCoop project on “Transnational American Studies” and a European Union research and teaching program called “Putting a Human Face on Diversity: The U.S. In / Of Europe.” Until recently he acted as director of an interdisciplinary research school “Cultures in/of Mobility.” His major research interests and publications focus on cultural constructions of illness and aging, transnational American Studies and materialist cultural theory. As founding member of ENAS (the European Network of Age Studies) he has recently co-edited the first-ever interdisciplinary collection on Age Studies within German American studies. Formerly President of the German Association for American Studies, he is currently a member of the Board of European American Studies.

-4Cosponsored by the European Studies Consortium (ESC, the Deutscher Akademischer AustauschDienst (German Academic Exchange Service/DAAD), the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literatures, the Department of English, the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), and the School of Public Health’s Center on Aging and Minnesota Area Geriatric Education Center (COA/MAGEC).

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