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Health, Happiness and the (Post) Human: An Exploration of Biometrics, Biopolitics and the Body in Juli Zeh’s The Method (2009) and Nicola Barker’s H(a)ppy (2017)

Author:

Jade Hinchliffe

The University of Hull, GB
About Jade
Jade is a PhD researcher at the University of Hull funded by the North of England Consortium for Arts and Humanities. Her thesis is entitled “The Representation of Surveillance and Social Sorting in Contemporary Dystopian Fiction”. She has a first class BA (Hons) and MA (by research) in English Literature from the University of Huddersfield. Jade is also the treasurer and a steering group member for the Postgraduate Contemporary Women’s Writing Network involved in co-organising the biennial conferences and other events.
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Abstract

In her 2009 novel The Method, Juli Zeh presents a healthcare dictatorship that requires all of its citizens to submit medical data to the state through self-monitoring practices and have a chip inside of them to ensure that they are healthy in both mind and body. Similarly, in her 2017 novel H(a)ppy, Nicola Barker envisions a society where everyone is monitored and induced with chemicals so that they are calm and balanced. Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson argue that surveillance is “driven by the desire to bring systems together" (610) and they coined the phrase the “surveillant assemblage” (606) which is the “convergence of what were once discrete surveillance systems […] [which] operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings and separating them into a series of discrete flows” (606) to create a data double. The data double can be interpreted as an extension of the physical body, when read in light of critical posthumanism and Donna Haraway’s concept of the cyborg. Pramod Nayar (13) suggests that, as a theoretical approach, critical posthumanism “treat(s) the human itself as an assemblage, co-evolving with other forms of life, enmeshed with the environment and technology”. By reading Zeh’s and Barker’s novels using critical posthumanism, biopolitics and surveillance theory, this paper will examine the ethical concerns of using biometric technologies for self-improvement and the implications of normalising certain behaviours and bodies, in order to ascertain what it means to be human in the twenty-first century.
How to Cite: Hinchliffe, J. (2019). Health, Happiness and the (Post) Human: An Exploration of Biometrics, Biopolitics and the Body in Juli Zeh’s The Method (2009) and Nicola Barker’s H(a)ppy (2017). Roundtable, 2(2), 3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/rt.54
Published on 21 Nov 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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