Friday, March 4, 2011

generation - reproduction - proliferation

Recently, I revisited Thomas Laqueur's comprehensive text, Making Sex, to refresh my knowledge of eighteenth century gender constructions. In discussing the dramatic epistemological changes occuring during the "age of enlightenment" Laqueur points out an ostensibly trivial change in nomenclature noting the change from "generation" to "reproduction" in the eighteenth century. [1] Laqueur further elucidates this change, and its accompanying relationship to the body-as-machine ideology, quoting Fontanelle: "...put the Machine called a Dog, and the Machine called a Bitch to one another for some time, and there may result another little Machine." [2]

I've written before about this concept of bio-power--that, in the eighteenth century, we start to see the institutionalization of the body. Effectively, reproduction becomes a concern of the state due to--among and in conjuction with other things--a burgeoning global economy. Creepy, no? When we consider the word "reproduction" in this context, it takes on the added connotation of mechanized reproduction. Furthermore, if one examines the prevalance and popularity of the body explained as a great machine (a microcosm of the universe as a watch, with God the divine engineer), such imagery can only be linked to industrialization.

Today, we find ourselves approaching a kind of "zero hour." Pessimistic though it may be, I would argue (and yes, Baudrillard would likely back me up) that we cannot remain in the purgatory of fractal expansion we have created. Words like "advance" "develop" "create" no longer accurately express the twenty-first centruy condition of production. Rather, we find ourselves in a paradoxically static dimension of proliferation: reproduction without conciousness, expansion lacking telos. Inundated by imagery, information and material we are entrapped by the unreal. Dissociated from experience we find ourselves espoused to that which is external and fundamentally alien. Adrift in an ocean of excess, the terrific and the grotesque commune with one another in post-modern bacchanalian revelry.

Where "generation" implies something sacred and singular, "reproduction" participates in rhetoric of multiplicity, duplication, and interchangeability. Upping the proverbial ante, "proliferation" culls images of crass overpopulation, a planet teeming with perverse, meaningless life.

[1] Laqueur, Thomas Walter. Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990.
[2] Ibid.

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