The Cinematic Life of the Gene

Duke University Press
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What might the cinema tell us about how and why the prospect of cloning disturbs our most profound ideas about gender, sexuality, difference, and the body? In The Cinematic Life of the Gene, the pioneering feminist film theorist Jackie Stacey argues that as a cultural technology of imitation, cinema is uniquely situated to help us theorize “the genetic imaginary,” the constellation of fantasies that genetic engineering provokes. Since the mid-1990s there has been remarkable innovation in genetic engineering and a proliferation of films structured by anxieties about the changing meanings of biological and cultural reproduction. Bringing analyses of several of these films into dialogue with contemporary cultural theory, Stacey demonstrates how the cinema animates the tropes and enacts the fears at the heart of our genetic imaginary. She engages with film theory; queer theories of desire, embodiment, and kinship; psychoanalytic theories of subject formation; and debates about the reproducibility of the image and the shift from analog to digital technologies.

Stacey examines the body-horror movies Alien: Resurrection and Species in light of Jean Baudrillard’s apocalyptic proclamations about cloning and “the hell of the same,” and she considers the art-house thrillers Gattaca and Code 46 in relation to ideas about imitation, including feminist theories of masquerade, postcolonial conceptualizations of mimicry, and queer notions of impersonation. Turning to Teknolust and Genetic Admiration, independent films by feminist directors, she extends Walter Benjamin’s theory of aura to draw an analogy between the replication of biological information and the reproducibility of the art object. Stacey suggests new ways to think about those who are not what they appear to be, the problem of determining identity in a world of artificiality, and the loss of singularity amid unchecked replication.

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About the author

Jackie Stacey is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Star Gazing: Female Spectators and Hollywood Cinema and Teratologies: A Cultural Study of Cancer; co-author of Global Nature, Global Culture; and co-editor of several books, including Queer Screen: A Screen Reader, Thinking through Skin, and Romance Revisited. Stacey is an editor of the journals Screen and Feminist Theory.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Apr 2, 2010
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Pages
344
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ISBN
9780822390947
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Language
English
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Genres
Performing Arts / Film / History & Criticism
Science / Life Sciences / Genetics & Genomics
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this study, Baltruschat calls attention to dramatic changes in worldwide media production. Her work provides new insights into industry re-organization, digital media, and audience interactivity as pivotal relationships are redrawn along the entire value chain of production, distribution, and consumption. Based on an international study, she details how cultural agents now negotiate a media landscape through collaborative ventures, co-productions and format franchising. These varied collaborations define the new global media economy and affect a shift across the entire field of cultural production.

Through detailing the intricacies of globally networked production ecologies, Baltruschat elucidates the shifting power relations in media production, especially in regards to creative labor and trade of intellectual properties. In the new global economy, "content" has become the "new currency." As a result, relational dynamics between cultural agents emerge as key forces in shaping worldwide cultural production, now increasingly characterized by flexible production and consumption.

The blurring of lines in international media developments require new parameters, which define creativity and intellectual property in relation to interactive audiences and collaboratively produced content. Baltruschat clearly maps and defines these new dynamics and provides solutions as to how creative labor constellations can advance and enrich the new media economy. This is especially pertinent as global film and TV production does not necessarily result in greater media diversity. On the contrary, interdependencies in policy regimes, prioritization of certain genres, and branded entertainment epitomize how current networked ecologies reflect broader trends in cultural and economic globalization.

Stories of cancer are full of monster and marvels; the monstrousness of the disease and the treatments, the marvels of the cures and the saved lives. Still one of the most dreaded diseases to haunt our imaginations, cancer is more than an illness - it is a cultural phenomenon. People who have cancer are bombarded with competing explanations of their conditions: it is genetically inherited; it is environmentally produced; it is the result of their personality. Teratologies - A Cultural Study of Cancer investigates how this disease is perceived, experienced and theorised in contemporary society. It explores changing beliefs about the causes of, and the cures for, cancer in both biomedicine and its increasingly popular alternative counterparts.
Analysing conventional and alternative medical accounts, self-help manuals and patients' personal stories, Jackie Stacey takes a critical look at the place of heroes, metaphors, the self and the body in these competing bids to produce the authoritative definition of the meaning of cancer today. Interspersed with these detailed textual investigations are discussions of broader issues such as the feminist debates about the history of science, the place of consumer culture in health practices and the status of patients and of health professionals in postmodern society.
Combining authobiographical narratives with contemporary theoretical debates, the author carves out a specifically feminist analysis of the cultural dimensions of cancer. She brings accounts of her own illness under the critical lens of academic scrutiny and situates these personal stories within a discussion of contemporary cultural change.
While the creation of Dolly the sheep, the world’s most famous clone, triggered an enormous amount of discussion about human cloning, in Dolly Mixtures the anthropologist Sarah Franklin looks beyond that much-rehearsed controversy to some of the other reasons why the iconic animal’s birth and death were significant. Building on the work of historians and anthropologists, Franklin reveals Dolly as the embodiment of agricultural, scientific, social, and commercial histories which are, in turn, bound up with national and imperial aspirations. Dolly was the offspring of a long tradition of animal domestication, as well as the more recent histories of capital accumulation through selective breeding, and enhanced national competitiveness through the control of biocapital. Franklin traces Dolly’s connections to Britain’s centuries-old sheep and wool markets (which were vital to the nation’s industrial revolution) and to Britain’s export of animals to its colonies—particularly Australia—to expand markets and produce wealth. Moving forward in time, she explains the celebrity sheep’s links to the embryonic cell lines and global bioscientific innovation of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first.

Franklin combines wide-ranging sources—from historical accounts of sheep-breeding, to scientific representations of cloning by nuclear transfer, to popular media reports of Dolly’s creation and birth—as she draws on gender and kinship theory as well as postcolonial and science studies. She argues that there is an urgent need for more nuanced responses to the complex intersections between the social and the biological, intersections which are literally reshaping reproduction and genealogy. In Dolly Mixtures, Franklin uses the renowned sheep as an opportunity to begin developing a critical language to identify and evaluate the reproductive possibilities that post-Dolly biology now faces, and to look back at some of the important historical formations that enabled and prefigured Dolly’s creation.

How global biotechnology is redefining "life itself."

In the age of global biotechnology, DNA can exist as biological material in a test tube, as a sequence in a computer database, and as economically valuable information in a patent. In The Global Genome, Eugene Thacker asks us to consider the relationship of these three entities and argues that—by their existence and their interrelationships—they are fundamentally redefining the notion of biological life itself.

Biological science and the biotech industry are increasingly organized at a global level, in large part because of the use of the Internet in exchanging biological data. International genome sequencing efforts, genomic databases, the development of World Intellectual Property policies, and the "borderless" business of biotech are all evidence of the global intersections of biology and informatics—of genetic codes and computer codes. Thacker points out the internal tension in the very concept of biotechnology: the products are more "tech" than "bio," but the technology itself is fully biological, composed of the biomaterial labor of genes, proteins, cells, and tissues. Is biotechnology a technology at all, he asks, or is it a notion of "life itself" that is inseparable from its use in the biotech industry?

The three sections of the book cover the three primary activities of biotechnology today: the encoding of biological materials into digital form—as in bioinformatics and genomics; its recoding in various ways—including the "biocolonialism" of mapping genetically isolated ethnic populations and the newly pervasive concern over "biological security"; and its decoding back into biological materiality—as in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Thacker moves easily from science to philosophy to political economics, enlivening his account with ideas from such thinkers as Georges Bataille, Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault, Antonio Negri, and Paul Virilio. The "global genome," says Thacker, makes it impossible to consider biotechnology without the context of globalism.

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