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Reified LifeSpeculative Capital and the Ahuman Condition$
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J. Paul Narkunas

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823280308

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823280308.001.0001

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Between Words, Numbers, and Things

Between Words, Numbers, and Things

Transgenics and Other Objects of Life in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy

(p.194) Chapter 7 Between Words, Numbers, and Things
Reified Life

J. Paul Narkunas

Fordham University Press

This chapter further outlines the concept of speculative fictions with Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Atwood depicts a post-apocalyptic and posthuman future, where the speculative promise of financial capital and biotechnology has destroyed the world as we know it. Atwood diagnoses the human as a bioengineered product, the effect of the synergy of science, evangelical positivism, utilitarianism, and messianic faith in human innovation and market-based solutions in the creation of transgenic beings. The chapter describes Atwood as a writer of speculative fictions in her “ustopian” world modeling that challenges speculative capital’s instrumentalization of life as risk management. Atwood opposes life becoming rendered into an algorithmic game, a complex calculation that generates automated reasoning. Atwood demonstrates the importance of critiques of anthropocentrism and speciesism; however, she shows how they seemingly lack a concept of power except as anthropocentrism. If the concept of nonhistorical, fixed essences is challenged by what molecular biologists call morphogenesis and philosopher’s ontogenesis, recent advances in tissue engineering, stem cell research, and biotechnology rethink life as a non-anthropocentric process. Thinking humans ontologically as dynamically networked life and process—in short as ahuman—may frustrate life’s instrumentalization by the biotechs within free market capital.

Keywords:   Atwood, Margaret, Bioengineering, Life, MaddAddam, Ontogenesis, Speculative capital, Speculative literature, Transgenics, Ustopia

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