Motherhood and the Machine

Miglena Nikolchina

Abstract


In her conceptualization of the human as defined by the capacity for revolt Kristeva unavoidably touches upon issues of robotization, technology, and the virtual. The concepts of animal and machine, however, although they do appear occasionally and in important ways, are never at the focus of her inquiries and are absent in her “New Forms of Revolt.” Yet these two concepts to a large extent define the field of contemporary philosophical debates of the human giving rise to three major theoretical orientations. On the one hand, there is the trend which tries to come to terms with technological novelties and the merging of human and machine that they imply. This trend unfolds under the rubric of “transhuman” or “posthuman” and of the “enhancement” of man. The second trend predominates in animal studies. Mostly in an ethical perspective but also ontologically, this trend, to which Derrida’s later writing made a significant contribution, questions the idea of the “human exception” and the rigorous distinction between man and animal on which this exception rests. While apparently antagonistic, both trends align the human with the animal and oppose it to technology. The third trend collapses the distinctions on which the previous two rely through the lens of biopolitics: drawing on Heidegger, Kojève, and Foucault, it regards contemporary technological transformations as amounting to the animalization of man.  The human disappears in the animal, in the machine, or in the indistinguishability of the two, confirming what Agamben has described as the inoperativeness of the anthropological machine. The present text turns to Kristeva’s conceptions of motherhood and revolt as introducing a powerful inflection in this tripartite field. Remarkably, it is precisely new sagas of rebellious machines like Battlestar “Galactica” that foreground the relevance of Kristeva’s approach.


Keywords


Julia Kristeva; Motherhood; Revolt; Human; Robot

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jffp.2014.655

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