Alien Embodiment and Nomadic Subjectivity: A Speculative Report

Klee, Steve and McKenzie, Kirsten (2023) Alien Embodiment and Nomadic Subjectivity: A Speculative Report. In: Posthumanism in Practice. Bloomsbury Publishing, pp. 57-76. ISBN 9781350293809

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Alien Embodiment and Nomadic Subjectivity: A Speculative Report
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The subject of our chapter for Posthumanism in Practice is an ongoing research project called Alien Bodies and How to Wear Them (ABHWT). This project cross-fertilizes knowledge and skills from contemporary art with cognitive neuroscientific understanding concerning embodiment and perception of the bodily self. The project began with an iterative-creative process to develop images of aliens (imagined creatures from beyond our solar system) that could then be used to facilitate a psychological experiment to shed light on body image and offer a pathway to potential therapies for pathological body dissatisfaction. Specifically, we were interested in whether elevated bodily appearance concerns would affect a person’s willingness to embody a physical form vastly different from their own. Preliminary analysis of the experimental data showed that individuals with elevated bodily appearance concerns were indeed less likely to entertain embodying a more alien figure than those who reported lower levels body image dissatisfaction. Our chapter also examines theoretically how we might build upon this type of experiment in future to generate possible therapies for ‘negative body image’. We articulate a plan to utilize virtual reality (VR) to create body swap illusions; an induced perception that a person owns an avatar body. Lastly, our chapter situates ABHWT within Rosi Braidotti’s critical posthumanism, specifically her formulation of nomadic subjectivity. With Braidotti we understand ‘the human’ to be a category marked by violence, in that it is dependent upon the exclusion of marginalised people, and non-humans. Further exclusions pertain to body image: to be properly human is to look a certain way. Braidotti’s method for countering this violence involves fostering nomadic subjectivity, a mode of being that is hybrid; one that embraces excluded others. We assert that our proposed VR embodiment illusions should be understood as nomadic in this way - an ethical contestation of the outdated and narrow definition of the human.

Keywords:intersectional, posthumanism, Body representation
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W213 Visual Communication
C Biological Sciences > C850 Cognitive Psychology
W Creative Arts and Design > W520 Body Awareness
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Creative Arts > Lincoln School of Creative Arts (Fine Arts)
College of Social Science > School of Psychology
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ID Code:50035
Deposited On:12 Jul 2022 15:18

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