Today, biotechnology is radically changing the terms of life: in the past human beings manipulated the external, and today humans turned upon themselves, manipulating their own bodies. The dissolution of the boundary between human and technology has raised questions about identity, humanity and our responsibilities towards new life forms. Meanwhile, globalization transforms the reach of biotechnology, with the language of genetics becoming a universal way of understanding life and disease. In this paper I address the question of 'ethics' in this biotech age: What is the 'right' thing to do in this time of biotechnological 'improvement'?; How does the global diffusion of these technologies impact alternative understandings of human identity? And how do these changes affect our relationship with other human beings and other forms of life with which we share the planet?
I will argue that science fiction offers something distinctive to the ethical discussion. SF is a genre overtly concerned with the challenges of technological progress. Because it is a genre especially open to alterity, it is able to render visible our unseen or hidden hopes and fears. Its self-conscious play on signs and systems of signification draws attention to how technology, and the ethics surrounding it, is entangled in a language that is contingent and potentially oppressive. In this paper, I analyse the recent SF novel, Generation 14 (2008), written by the Indian writer Priya Chabria. I will examine how Chabria, through the mode of SF, is able to interrupt notions of identity that have become 'common sense,' thereby destabilizing existing ethical frames of reference to biotechnological improvement of life. Further, I will argue that SF alterity allows Chabria to introduce 'authentic' notions of identity, drawn from Indic philosophies of nondualism, and thus to introduce difference into the universalizing tendencies of the global community.
Netty Mattar, National University of Singapore, Singapore
This paper is part of the LibrAsia2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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