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Making Bodies Like a Rocket: Enhancement and Evolution of Natural Bodies

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Abstract:

In August 2008, humanity got a little bit better…if you measure improved progress by a stopwatch. In the 2008 Bejing Olympics, athletes broke many records, but in no sport were there as many shattered times as in swimming, with the majority of athletes wearing the new Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit. This high-tech suit floats along the line between permissible and prohibited technologies in sport, mediating the edge between naturally enhanced athletic performance and the artificially enhanced performance of bodies deemed cheaters or freaks. This presentation will examine how ideals of normalcy, progress and belonging manifest materially in the form of the LZR Racer suit worn on athletic bodies performing in sport competition.

Through a close material analysis of the technologies incorporated into the NASA-designed suit, I will demonstrate how the shape and composition of the suit molds itself to particular sorts of bodies, providing a model for the acceptably enhanced body. This particular form of body enhancement facilitates certain narratives of progress ever-present in sport. The goal of this enhancement is to improve athletic performance, enabling athletes to swim faster and break records. Record-breaking in sport can serve as a site of “proof” to justify narratives of human progress and naturalize certain technologies as necessary accoutrements to forward the scientifically-enhanced evolution of human bodies. However, in this narrative certain bodies become aligned as closer to the ideal natural body befitting technological improvement. Within the context of international competition, most obviously exemplified in the Olympics, the citizenship of athletes links their athletic accomplishments to nations, making their embodied performance a materialized symbol of national progress. Attention to the extraordinary bodies of athletes and the “second skins” of clothing in which they perform requires us to take seriously the role of “games” in interrogating the construction of normalcy and its links to narratives of progress.
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p318328_index.html
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MLA Citation:

McCullough, Sarah. "Making Bodies Like a Rocket: Enhancement and Evolution of Natural Bodies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Washington D.C., <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p318328_index.html>

APA Citation:

McCullough, S. "Making Bodies Like a Rocket: Enhancement and Evolution of Natural Bodies" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Renaissance Hotel, Washington D.C. <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p318328_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In August 2008, humanity got a little bit better…if you measure improved progress by a stopwatch. In the 2008 Bejing Olympics, athletes broke many records, but in no sport were there as many shattered times as in swimming, with the majority of athletes wearing the new Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit. This high-tech suit floats along the line between permissible and prohibited technologies in sport, mediating the edge between naturally enhanced athletic performance and the artificially enhanced performance of bodies deemed cheaters or freaks. This presentation will examine how ideals of normalcy, progress and belonging manifest materially in the form of the LZR Racer suit worn on athletic bodies performing in sport competition.

Through a close material analysis of the technologies incorporated into the NASA-designed suit, I will demonstrate how the shape and composition of the suit molds itself to particular sorts of bodies, providing a model for the acceptably enhanced body. This particular form of body enhancement facilitates certain narratives of progress ever-present in sport. The goal of this enhancement is to improve athletic performance, enabling athletes to swim faster and break records. Record-breaking in sport can serve as a site of “proof” to justify narratives of human progress and naturalize certain technologies as necessary accoutrements to forward the scientifically-enhanced evolution of human bodies. However, in this narrative certain bodies become aligned as closer to the ideal natural body befitting technological improvement. Within the context of international competition, most obviously exemplified in the Olympics, the citizenship of athletes links their athletic accomplishments to nations, making their embodied performance a materialized symbol of national progress. Attention to the extraordinary bodies of athletes and the “second skins” of clothing in which they perform requires us to take seriously the role of “games” in interrogating the construction of normalcy and its links to narratives of progress.


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