The Body


The body is not the seat of human agency; rather,it is that inexplicable construct called the mind that is seen as agency'ssource. The mind, however, in its abstractness, does not carry out itsown will; it uses the body, and therefore the body, as an immediately discerniblematerial object that perceivably interacts with the physical world is oftenthe de facto site of human agency. It is this very materiality, however,that makes the body problematic as such a site. A discussion of the constraintsimposed by the female sexed body on the female subject's agency will serveas a way to explore the body as a source of trouble.
The body presents related but distinct sources of encumbrances on agencyfor the postmodern feminist and the weapons designer. For the postmodernfeminist the problem is that the female sexed body holds the subordinateposition in the male/female dichotomy. In relation to the male, therefore,the female body, and hence the female will is essentialized as frailer,weaker, more emotional and therefore less rational than the male will.The sexed body, born of mother, also immediately oedipalizes human willand, in the case of the female, ties woman to the constraints of patriarchy.For the weapons designer, the body has immediate infirmities that makeit impractical as an instrument of war. It is, even compared with may ofits animal counterparts, weak, slow, and defenseless. It suffers, it bleeds,it dies. Not only is human agency destroyed when the body is severely injuredor destroyed, but it is impaired even by the threat of danger, since fearof death clouds the mind and often weakens the will.
Because of these failings, the body alone is inadequate as a site of agency,and therefore the construct of the cyborg offers new possibilities forhuman authorship. The cybernetic organism fuses the immortal nature ofthe machine with the human body, in its fusion interrogating the reificationof the body as the site of gender identity As a creature of flesh and machine,it has no single source of genesis, and therefore as the intersection ofdisparate discourses calls into question the privileging of the sexed oedipalizedbody as the site of agency, and therefore the essentialization upon whichpatriarchy depends for its authority. In its augmentation of bodily abilities,the cyborg as a postmodern site represents a similar enhancement of humanagency. For the weapons designer the cyborg provides more immediately materialbenefits. Not only the construct increase the organic capabilities of thehuman body, it also armors the body against the threat of injury and death,and therefore at least partly releases the mind from the constraints thatfear places over the human ability to reason and think.
The cyborg has, up to this point, provided distinct but parallel possibilitiesfor postmodern theory and weapons design, but henceforth there is a significantdivergence in the development of this construct. For some postmodern thinkers,the achievement of increased agency is an end in and of itself; the interrogationof boundaries and the subversion of patriarchy through enlightened agencypossible through the cyborg is a liberating possibility that must be employeduniquely by each subject that is so empowered. For instance, the Harawaiancyborg would wield its newfound agency to subvert the military acronymof C3I (command, control, communications and intelligence), enhancing intelligenceand communications and thereby subverting command and control, explodingthe notion of C3I.
Such liberation is not inherent in the military notion of agency; the agencyof the soldier is always already subordinated to the command and controlof the next higher echelon. Even intelligence and communications have distinctmilitary meanings. For the soldier, to communicate is not to share possibilitiesfor enlightened discourse with similarly empowered agents; it is to receivethe will of the commander and relay to him one's own understanding of thatwill. Intelligence is not the exercise of cognitive abilities for the enhancementof human potential. It is information that one gleans about the enemy inorder to destroy that enemy.