Reshma Sanil is a research scholar at the department of Humanities and Social Sciences (English), Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. Her research focuses on the interdisciplinary realm of post-genomics and its material embodiment. Her work cuts across the theoretical aspects of posthumanism, material feminism, and feminist techno-science, as well as the medical humanities and cultural studies intersecting the field of genomics. E-mail: reshma_s@hs.iitr.ac.in
Rashmi Gaur is a Senior Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. She has published various research papers in reputable journals. Her research interests are culture and gender theories, modern fiction, and Indian writing.


Posthuman Embodiment and the Grotesque Body: Understanding Epigenetics and its Abject Figurations in Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio

Abstract: According to Moira Gatens, a Spinozist account captures the body as productive and creative. This renders the molecular biology of our body as distinctly posthuman with its focus on embodied experiences that are “instantiated, local and specific” (Hayles 49). This paper aims to show the rhizomatic shift from the anthropocentric discourse around the Human Genome Project to “nomadic-becomings” materialized in the symbiotic interaction of genome with its external and internal environments. This plasticity of the human genome is termed epigenetics. The concept will be studied by analyzing the speculative narrative of Greg Bear’s novel Darwin’s Radio through the theoretical perspective of critical posthumanism to understand the transformation of the “recognizable” human body into the “grotesque.” The changing roles and relations of the genetic social imaginary and body are studied in the paper by analyzing the corporeal abjection, hybrid virus-human posthuman agency and the cultural anxiety brought out by species reproduction that does not fit the normative categories. The paper will analyze hybridity and othering as eroding of the human body and that which gesture towards new potentialities and becomings. The abject body that is situated as “grotesque” due to genetic mutations is studied in the paper as posthumanist performativity to substantiate that agency and the production of knowledge have always been the emergent product between human and nonhuman agents as well as material and discursive phenomena. This analysis, by providing a broader understanding of how the genome records environmental exposure that further alters gene expression, is particularly relevant for Southeast Asia, as it correlates ecological adaptation and human biological evolution in the region.
Keywords: epigenetics, grotesque, becomings, abject, posthumanist performativity