Alexandria Digital Research Library

Antibody Aesthetics : Insecurity at the Intersection of Twentieth-Century Culture, Politics, and Science

Pokornowski, Steven G.
Degree Supervisor:
Enda Duffy
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
History of Science, Literature, Modern, and American Studies
Cultural Studies
Science Fiction
Medical Humanities
American Literature
British and Anglophone Literature
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. English
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2015

This dissertation is an interdisciplinary examination of medicine, politics, and culture that explores how health and security became inextricably entangled throughout the long twentieth century. I also perform a disciplinary critique by resituating modernism and science fiction within a cultural history of biopolitics. I reconstruct an assemblage of secondary texts in medical, social, and political science driven by archival research in digitized medical journals, as well as at the Wellcome Library in London and the Wyndham Lewis Collection at Cornell. I read this archive through modernist and science fictions, tracing the emergence of a violent logic of self-defense that imbricates the discourses of health and security, naturalizing sociopolitical, racial, and national differences. I trace across cultural production common themes, figures, and anxieties associated with this entangling of health and security, a set of epistemologies which I call "antibody aesthetics." These antibody aesthetics revolve around liminal figures whose exclusion serves to define and delimit imagined communities. I historicize the development of these aesthetics in relation to biopolitical discourse and governance, examining them throughout novels such as Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1926), Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), and Coetzee's Life and Times of Michael K. (1983), popular films such as the Halperin brothers' White Zombie (1932), and science fiction novels including Richard Matheson's I am Legend (1954) and Max Brooks' World War Z (2006).

Methodologically, I draw upon interdisciplinary work in the Medical Humanities, Science and Technology Studies (STS), and related fields. The project analyzes scientific journals, works in social science and social theory, cultural criticism and theory, and cultural productions. I make three interventions in this project. I recontextualize modernist and science fictions, demonstrating their shared development of antibody aesthetics, and noting structural, thematic, and discursive similarities as a result. I offer a new genealogy of biopolitics that contextualizes the term's emergence in 1911 in relation to the use of biomedicine in governance, and the increasing use of political metaphor in biomedical conceptualizations. Finally, I demonstrate how contemporary preoccupations with bioinsecurity and terror, exemplified in the popularity of the zombie in culture, have their roots in medical, political, and cultural developments beginning in the 1880s.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (306 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Steven Pokornowski
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