Accepted paper:

The corporate body: biosocial relations in the production of prosthetic technologies


César Enrique Giraldo Herrera (Leibniz-ZMT Centre for Marine Tropical Research)
Gísli Pálsson (University of Iceland)

Paper short abstract:

Modern orthopedic prosthetics, not only imitate biological organs or their functions, they are designed and manufactured corporately. We explore how prosthetics embody biosocial relations amongst researchers, amputees, materials, body parts, artifacts, and theories.

Paper long abstract:

By employing apprenticeship methodologies of ethnography as an intern at a multinational biomedical engineering corporation, this article examines instrumentalism and the prosthetic metaphor that views bodies as instruments and analyses society organically, ultimately instrumentalising people. The ethnography is developed with a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of non-invasive orthopaedics, renown as an innovator for its bionic limbs. The work focuses one of its first and most profitable products: an interface tegument that facilitates the adhesion, support and cushioning of the prosthesis. The ethnography developed affords two interrelated perspectives: First, an approach to biomedical corporate life, the way R&D Biomedical engineers engage and interact with bodies, materials, designs, prototypes, artefacts, colleagues and amputees, developing prosthetic technologies within a corporate setting. Second, it affords an understanding of the organs constituting the lower limbs, of their relations amongst one another and with the rest of the body. Combining and comparing these views, after the biosocial and posthuman turn, we subvert the prosthetic metaphor in order to regard instruments as organic social agents constituting part of a social or "corporate" body.

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Being, being human, and becoming beyond human