Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Biopolitics of Memory in Transnational Circuits: Lifted Tongues and Cloned Dogs
by Yoon, Hyaesin, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2014, 140; 10150686
Abstract (Summary)

The Biopolitics of Memory: Lifted Tongues and Cloned Pets explores an ethics of memory in a time when bodies are modified, reproduced, and disposed of in transnational circuits. This exploration raises two overarching questions. First, how do we carry memories of others when bodies and images intermingle at the intersection of biotechnology and virtual media? Second, what do such memories tell us about the uneven circuits within which these bodies circulate across the differences in sex, race, species, and nation? Critically engaging with the ethics of mourning, this dissertation searches for an ethics of memory that approaches bodies not as a fulcrum of abjection, but as regenerative interfaces in which collective memories are composed through encounters with other bodies.

The dissertation concerns two sets of technologically intervened bodies, which embody "cuts" in cultural and biological memories. The first part examines the question of the diasporic tongue and its bearing on cultural memories. It begins with a scene from the South Korean film Tongue Tie, in which a boy undergoes surgery upon his tongue to improve his English pronunciation. My analysis explores the biopolitical implications of this surgically lifted tongue in the age of globalization — refiguring it in conjunction with the visceral tongue in Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's literature and video works, with American accent training in Indian call centers, and with the theories of Walter Benjamin, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. I argue that these wounded tongues perform the memories of displacement in their buffering and stuttering speech, carrying the potential to disrupt operation of the major language through their materiality.

The second part of this dissertation asks how genetic reproducibility revises the politics of mourning, exploring commercial dog-cloning services — provided primarily by Korean scientists for grieving dog owners in the US. I challenge the prevailing criticism that clones are bio-mimetic replacements (to forego the process of mourning) by examining how this imaginary is ironically reversed in the rhetoric both of the pet cloning industry and of customers who cloned their dogs. I then shift focus to the intermingling of the various bodies involved in cloning, and argue that dog cloning produces memorable bodies by making other bodies invisible and even disposable. I especially trace the disappearance of former surrogate-mother dogs — said to be slaughtered for human consumption — by examining how the discourses of "animal welfare" (raised by Western critiques), Korean nationalism, and the sex/species hierarchy shape the rhetorical and material landscape of the effacement of these bodies.

This new biopolitics of memory focusing on corporeal assemblages urges us to reimagine our relationship with other beings — human, animal, and technology. However, this approach does not necessarily lead to a declaration of the egalitarianism of all beings, but rather asks us to think about the complexity of the value and forms of life in transnational circuits. Furthermore, the biopolitics of memory allows us to envision "kinship in spite of kind" not as a given, but as an ethical choreography of embodied interrelations across sex, race, and species.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Trinh, Minh-Ha
Commitee: Jackson, Shannon, Thompson, Charis
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Rhetoric
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethics, Rhetoric, Gender studies
Keywords: Animal cloning, Bioethics, Diaspora, Memory, Transnational
Publication Number: 10150686
ISBN: 978-1-369-05452-1
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