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Accepted Paper:

Picturing the Anti-Cyborg: Narratives of Enhancement and their Future (Im)possibilities in Armed Forces  
Denisa Butnaru (University of Konstanz)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation critically appraises science-fictional and technological tropes regarding prospective applications such as exoskeletal devices in armed forces and emphasizes the dangers, risks and vulnerability forms in using these categories about the corporeal realities in military field.

Paper long abstract:

Some years ago, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, former Director of Defense Sciences at the DARPA noted the following: ““Imagine soldiers having no physical limitations … […] Soldiers having no physical, physiological, or cognitive limitations will be key to survival and operational dominance in the future … Metabolically dominant warfighters of the future will be able to keep their cognitive abilities intact, while not sleeping for weeks … And contemplate, for a moment, a world in which learning is as easy as eating, and the replacement of damaged body parts as convenient as a fast food drive-thru” (Goldblatt 2002, quoted in Malet 2015: 319).

Such narratives describing humans endowed with superpowers and deliberately advancing enhanced bodies and minds remain currently far from any facts. What they encourage is rather a promising discourse relying on a fictional imaginary conceived to hide deep vulnerability and “dehumanizing” (Dobos 2020: 27 ff) techniques in the armed forces. Following ethnographic fieldwork and expert and narrative interviews with staff working for and within armed forces, I will question the production of “Iron Men” and some of their technologies of imagination: exoskeletons. My intention is to discuss the discrepancy between the futures promised by narratives of enhanced soldiership, in which exoskeletons along with AR and VR play an essential role, and emphasize the dangers, risks and vulnerability forms in using these categories around and about the corporeal realities in armed forces.

Panel P149b
Future imagination, Time and Space: How the Future is being governed by technologies of Imagination in Different social and cultural contexts
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -