Cybersurgery and surgical (dis)embodiment: technology, science, art and the body

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This paper re-examines Benjamin’s understanding of the technological mediation of reality, as presented in his Work of Art essay, in relation to the surgical mediation of the body and to conceptions of embodiment. Through a focus upon the history of surgery in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and its relationship to current (cyber)surgical practices, the paper demonstrates Benjamin’s continuing relevancy in understanding the contemporary mediation of the body through the lens of surgical technologies. Firstly, it calls attention to the historical role of the surgeon in the formation of an anatomical conception of the body, mediated through imaging and surgical technologies. Secondly, it shows how this anatomically fragmented view of the body is articulated in current surgical practices, reliant upon the digitised image of the body for the practice of surgery. The effects of the digital penetration of the body are that in attempting to bring the body closer to the surgeon, the body becomes even more fragmented and disembodied; an image on a flat screen, rather than a whole, three- dimensional, material body
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • surgery
  • art
  • anatomy
  • technology
  • science
  • the body
  • embodiment


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