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Author: Helen Burgess
Title: Mapping Bodies, Mapping Subjects: Missing the Mind's Eye from the X-Ray to the Human Genome
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
Winter 2002
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Source: Mapping Bodies, Mapping Subjects: Missing the Mind's Eye from the X-Ray to the Human Genome
Helen Burgess


vol. 3, no. 2, Winter 2002
Article Type: Essay
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.pid9999.0003.204

Mapping Bodies, Mapping Subjects: Missing the Mind's Eye from the X-Ray to the Human Genome

Helen Burgess

There is always something uncanny about a photograph; in the freezing of the moment the real is lost through its doubling.
Mary Anne Doane, Technophilia: Technology, Representation, and the Feminine" (175)
They x-rayed my head and found nothing.
Baseballer Jerome dizzy" Dean

By now, it seems a truism to say that at the end of the twentieth century inner space has replaced outer space as the new frontier. The fascination with what is inside the body, enabled by new imaging techniques such as the x-ray and MRI, has become a marker for Western culture's continuing search for a hidden truth" about our nature as human beings. Nowhere is this more evident than in popular cultural preoccupations with medical imaging; thus while Sojourner wandered the face of Mars and Voyager spun out beyond Saturn in the search for life out there," Special Agent Dana Scully of cult television series The X-Files gazed at an x-ray image of the cancer growing inside her, observing that the truth is no longer out there... the truth is in me." Similarly, each week prime-time television medical dramas such as Chicago Hope and ER depict medical diagnoses carried out by x-ray analysis. In these scenarios the human drama of hospital politics typically consist of finding some way to pay for expensive diagnostic technologies within the patient's health insurance limitations. In each case, the truth" is revealed in the x-ray; the scanned image of the body is pinned to a lighting grid on the wall, and the mapping of human health or illness interpreted by the skilled eye of the physician.

The eerie, skin-and-bones image of the x-ray has long both fascinated and repelled us. In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röentgen discovered that mysterious (X") rays produced by cathode ray tubes could be passed through seemingly opaque objects and made to produce a shadow," revealing the inside of the object on exposed film plates. After experimenting with various objects made of wood and metal, on December 22, 1895 he led his wife, Anna Bertha Röentgen, into his laboratory and recorded the first x-ray image of a living body, exposing her hand to the rays emanating from the cathode tube and capturing the image on a film plate. Röentgen sent the resulting image, showing a skeletal hand complete with opaque wedding band, to prominent physicists of the time with a description of his experiments. What he neglected to inform them, however, was that Frau Röentgen was deeply disturbed by the image, claiming that, in the skeletal hand, she saw the intimation of her own death (Kevles 48).

click to enlarge image
click to enlarge image

Frau Röentgen's reaction to the photographic imprint of her hand was, of course, partly a cultural reaction to the spectral image of living human bones, usually seen only in skeletal remains, and hence signifying death. Similarly, Agent Scully's x-ray depicted not only a cancerous mass but more notably the delicately shaded image of her skull—the traditional memento mori" of the episode's title. The x-ray, then, has been haunted from the moment of its conception by the ghostly specter of death, traced out onto the film plate in black-and-white. The body becomes a haunted thing"—an object of medical examination which seems to reveal a knowledge or inscription of its own death. But is there another way to read the x-ray? More importantly, is there a way to escape the haunting" of the body by the cultural markers of death?

Reading and interpreting technologically mediated images of the body" has almost become obligatory for women's studies and feminist cultural criticism in recent years. Much feminist criticism of visualization technologies (especially those concerned with the process of human reproduction) has concentrated upon the ways in which these technologies expose the most intimate parts of the female body to the objectifying male gaze of the scientist/physician (Balsamo 1996; Bordo 1993; Doane 1990; Treichler 1990).

What is at stake in these readings is the valuable realization that imaging technologies reduce bodies—and not just women's bodies but also disabled and racialized bodies—to the status of things" which can be manipulated and discussed without concern for the essentialist and gendered nature of such operations. In the case of the x-ray, Frau Röentgen's horror at the reminder of her own mortality can be added to a cultural history of the x-ray in which women have borne the effects of decades of medical research into imaging technologies—both as subjects for examination and as the operators of deadly machines which killed as many as they helped in the early days of x-ray cures."

However, these same technologies, I would argue, offer opportunities to conceptualize the body and the subject in new ways, ways which might not inevitably lead to the domination of women's bodies by the specular gaze of patriarchal science. In Screening the Body, Lisa Cartwright situates the x-ray as a modernist technique which constructs a body that is feared and revered for its evocation of death in life" (xiv). She contrasts the cinematic construction of the body—creating life from still photos—with the construction of the theater of the x-ray—moving pictures made of x-rays which bring to the fore the specter of death-in-life. Quite properly, she considers x-rays to function as icons, fetishes and artifacts of health, life, sexuality, and, most significantly, death ... the X-ray is both gothic and modernist" (107). This would seem to fit in nicely with the conception of the x-ray as a technology which perpetuates the classic modernist pairs of inside/outside, living/dead, and surface/depth. However, Cartwright also suggests that the transparency of the x-ray and its ability to be placed into moving images might set up the body for a foucauldian staging" which confuses these pairs, by creating bodies that are alive-in-death, rather than dead-in-life: the X-ray photograph [is] received by its viewers as a static and bloodless image evoking death, whereas the moving X-ray suggests the potential to breathe life into that image, animating it and investing it with newly configured surfaces and fluids, symbolic flesh and blood" (131). Doane's photographic freezing of the moment" becomes an unfreezing" and a re-surfacing."

This movement from still to moving pictures and from depth to surface suggests also a movement from a modernist to a postmodernist reading of the x-ray as a text of the body. In contemporary literary studies, we are familiar with the double practice of looking at/looking through" that one must apply to a text, for example, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin's claims (Remediations 3-6) that media both want to be self-conscious and transparent. We must do the same for the body so that transparency (looking through) does not become the only option when reading medical images. Looking at" the x-ray as a cultural text, which tries to privilege depth over surface and transparency over the complex interaction of surface and depth that is the body, might help us unpack and re-read what it is in the x-ray that scared Frau Röentgen so much. In particular I assert that providing a re-reading of the cultural anxiety of the x-ray might suggest to us that in fact the body is not a haunted thing," an object outside which we can stand and watch with grisly fascination the spectacle of our own mortality, but rather the very condition through which we constitute our sense of self."

The x-ray suggests to us that the body, through the marvels of imaging technology, is a text that can be read on the walls of a surgeon's office. However, the body is not just a visual text, but a cultural and social one as well. Alluquere Rosanne Stone identifies the body visualized by medical technologies as representing the way our bodies are always already mediated in everyday life as a site for the inscription of social/cultural rules, beliefs, and norms. She calls this socially created body the legible body": the legible body is the social, rather than the physical, body; the legible body displays the social meaning of 'body' on its surface, presenting a set of cultural codes that organize the ways the body is apprehended and that determine the range of socially appropriate responses" (41). In another episode of The X-Files, for example, Agent Scully, while conducting a forensic autopsy of a mutilated body, observes that the body has a story to tell" (Irresistible"). In this case, the history of the body can be reconstructed through the examination of forensic evidence—the life the victim led, and the way she died. But Agent Scully is also part of the process by which the body's story comes to be told: her status as a medical doctor, performing an autopsy for the specific purpose of reconstructing the events which led to the body's death, creates its own narrative of crime and victimization. This is the legible body" of medical forensics—not merely the physical body, but the construction of its social circumstances. The legible body, thus, is simultaneously the body represented as a text, and a social text about the body that carries its own set of values and assumptions.

Similarly, the x-ray image can be read not only as a text of the body"—i.e., a transparent image which tells us what the body looks like inside—but also as a social text. The legible body" of the x-ray image, in this case, has the ability to tell the story not only of the body we see before us, but also to tell the whole complex history of our notion that there is a secret" inside the body—the secret of the self." In particular, the x-ray tells the story of our fascination with the ways in which technologies—most particularly, imaging machines—have attempted to find that secret and expose it to scientific eyes. It is no accident that the language we use to discuss what imaging technologies do—they reveal," dis-cover," the inside of the body—can be glossed as the language of visualization and, more particularly, of photography: in-sight," exposure." Imaging the body thus comes to mean the application of a particular set of visual technologies with the aim of finding something that's hidden—so that the ghost in the machine" is instead assumed to be a ghost in the body.

To illustrate what is at stake when talking about imaging technologies, I will discuss two contemporary cultural texts that explore the impact of the x-ray upon notions of what it means to be human in the face of the machine. I have chosen two very different texts, a song and a cartoon, to indicate something of the breadth of influence the x-ray has had on cultural production, but these are by no means isolated examples; rather they should be taken as standing in for a much wider range of popular and cultural references to medical imaging. In the first example, the lyrics of the 1993 song Here I Stand Before Me," Canadian pop band Crash Test Dummies explores the peculiar shifting and doubling of perspective that is achieved in the act of looking at one's own body as a technologically-mediated image, and articulate some of the anxieties which our culture has come to associate with the x-ray. In the second example, the 1998 cartoon, Superman meets Supermodel," the technologically-mediated image of the body not only calls into question the notion of a self," but manifests itself in gendered forms. However, re-reading these texts against the grain could lead to an alternative way of thinking about the relationship between the body and subjectivity. In particular, if the notion of the body as a haunted thing" suggests that the anxieties we have about medical imaging are dependent upon an inside/outside" dichotomy which structures the way we theorize our own subjectivity in the everyday, then refiguring this dichotomy could show that the x-ray does not have to be haunted with the specter of our own death. Rather, imaging technologies could show us a way out of the traditional essentialist double-bind of the fleshy body and otherwordly spirit, by suggesting the ways in which inside" and outside" are mutually dependent and culturally constructed.

Missing the Mind's Eye

The Crash Test Dummies' 1993 song, Here I Stand Before Me," brings to light three key anxieties for humans living in a technologically-mediated environment: the disjunction of viewing one's body as a medical object; the rationalist challenging of established beliefs in the location of the soul or self"; and the sense of fatalism which accompanies the mapping out of the body's future history through medical extrapolation. Each of these anxieties is enacted in the lyrics of the song through the voice of an imagined protagonist, a patient examining an x-ray of his own body.

The opening lyrics of the song suggest the recognition of a disjuncture in the singer's mind between his own body and its scanned image. As the x-ray is taken, his body becomes an illuminated photograph, floating on the wall" in front of him:

The room was dark and my skeleton was floating on the wall
My voice trembles inside me
I'm trapped way down in my body...

This separation of the singer from his image, this incomplete identification between the body and its representation, foregrounds the way in which visualization technologies simultaneously allow access to the most intimate parts of the body and translate it into an object for diagnostic examination. The objectified medical body is the body as other"; the x-ray image in this case represents the way in which technology is capable of alienating the most familiar parts of the self. The song's title, Here I Stand Before Me," suggests clearly this act of doubling; the image is both the same as the actuality and something new and strange, so that the I" who speaks is not the same as the I" who appears in the x-ray.

The lyrics of the chorus of Here I Stand Before Me" suggest that technologies such as the X-ray have contributed to a shift in the way we conceptualize the location of a self" in relation to the body:

I, I, I, I
Oh here I stand before me
But something's out of place here
My mind's eye is missing from my body
I know it's there but I can't see where.

The singer's observation that the mind's eye is missing" from the x-ray image captures the uncertainty of the patient who cannot identify him- or herself in the image. If there is no mind's eye," is there an I"? The repetition of I" in the chorus suggests that this is a crucial question. For the Crash Test Dummies, the x-ray's two-dimensional imaging of the body brings into question whether there is any seat of consciousness beyond the complex interconnection of bone and tissue that make up the body. The anxiety is not, following Derrida, that one is haunted by the spectre of one's self, but rather that one is not haunted: that the x-ray bears no resemblance to the self, and is indeed profoundly disconnected from it through the objectification of the body by medical discourse.

If the singer's fear of the x-ray is a fear of being forced to see one's body as merely an object, it is also a fear of the reason the x-ray was performed in the first place: the possible diagnosis of a potentially fatal disease. The singer describes the way in which the bones shine brightly," creating a map of [the] body"; however, the x-ray is not merely a map of the body for documentary purposes. Rather, the x-ray will ultimately determine the fate of the singer with its findings. Although no actual diagnosis is made explicit, the final lines of the song suggest that the body's hidden interior reveals something which will determine the remainder of the singer's life: the future lay before me/deep inside my body." In this way, the x-ray not only maps out the physical boundaries of the body, but also maps out" the future. Ironically, in these cases, the evacuated space of the x-ray is the best one can hope for: to see nothing" in the scanned image is to confront the absence of disease with a profound sense of relief.

Although the x-ray and other imaging technologies are used for diagnosis, they are also part of the elimination of illness. Images pinpointing the position of cancerous tumors are an integral part of the process of treatment, so that the x-ray photograph, far from being a determinist text mapping out the inevitable death of the body, can become a nexus-point: a kind of hypertextual moment from which can spring a multiplicity of possible futures depending upon the interpretations and decisions of the surgeon. However, the x-ray's efficacy does not exist in a vacuum; it depends upon the authority of medical discourse, and the interpellation of the subject as an object upon which this discourse can be operated. The body, thus, begins to have a narrative at precisely the moment that it is exposed to the invisible eye of the x-ray, but it is not a narrative of self." Rather, it is a narrative which will determine the course of treatment of the individual by the surgeon, and the medical establishment—a narrative which creates the subject-in-medical-discourse. The x-ray, once again, becomes a marker for the evacuation of the subjective experience of self from the institutionalization of illness.

Superman meets Supermodel

click to enlarge image
click to enlarge image

In a second cultural text, we again see the ways in which the x-ray has come to stand in for the kinds of anxieties we have about the place of our subjectivity in relation to our bodies. The 1998 cartoon Superman meets Supermodel" (Vic Lee, I Need Help," syndicated 1999) depicts two people sitting across a table from one another—a rather belligerent and not particularly muscular Superman, and a primping woman in a flowery dress holding a mirror, presumably the supermodel in this case. The speech balloon for Superman reads: With my x-ray vision, I can see right through you," to which the supermodel replies, Big deal. With my hand-held mirror, I can do the same."

In this case, there is no strictly x-ray" image. However, the reference to Superman's fabled x-ray eyes leads us to reflect on what it means to see right through" someone. First, we should note carefully that the presumed holder of the gaze is Superman, in this case standing in somewhat comically for the specular gaze of the patriarchy. As a corollary, the object of the gaze is the supermodel, a woman more accustomed, presumably, to the (media, technological, patriarchal) gaze than most. This is a fairly straightforward gender reading of the subject/object relationship.

What is interesting in this case is the supermodel's reply: Big deal. With my hand-held mirror, I can do the same." Presumably, she does not mean she can see through him, but that she can see through herself. This cartoon, therefore, is funny not because of Superman's gaze but because the supermodel has admitted that her (self-directed) gaze discovers the same thing: because she's a supermodel (and therefore, according to our notion of supermodels, impossibly thin), she can see right through herself. Moreover, the cartoon works on the implied assumption that the supermodel is not only impossibly thin, but, holding up a mirror, vain, and superficial—thin" in more than just body. Most interesting, then, is the implicit anxiety we might read from the supermodel's statement and her pose: peering into a mirror, she can find no evidence of herself, just as the Crash Test Dummies' singer cannot find his mind's eye" in the x-ray. Both Superman's x-ray vision and her own observation confirm that she is little more than an object for the television screen and fashion runway; the inner self" the supermodel is looking for is absent. In On Longing, Susan Stewart makes this mirror-media imaging clear:

[w]e continually project the body into the world in order that its image might return to us: onto the other, the mirror, the animal, and the machine, and onto the artistic image... [w]e are surrounded by the image of the woman's face, the obsession of the portrait and the cover girl alike. The face is what belongs to the other; it is unavailable to the woman herself. (125)

Thus the subjectivity" of the supermodel is absent to herself; and, ironically in this case, to Superman as well.

Re-reading the Body

If the x-ray is shown in Here I Stand Before Me" and Superman meets Supermodel" to be the medium through which the subject is constituted as an object, then what is to be done to regain a sense of self" in the face of the machine? Both the lyrics of Crash Test Dummies' song and the Supermodel" cartoon eloquently articulate the cultural anxiety of the x-ray; however, I would argue that this anxiety and alienation exists because both song and cartoon are still framed in a determinist (and essentialist) binary discourse of mind/body, inner/outer, and self/other. Reading Here I Stand Before Me" and Superman meets Supermodel" against the grain, however, suggests another way of thinking about the subjectivity which might be implied by the x-ray.

On the simplest level, the x-ray may be used as a device to suggest the breakdown of the mind/body dualism. The mind's eye" is indeed missing from the body. Where, then, is the self"? With a specific eye towards body criticism," Elizabeth Grosz argues that part of a feminist rethinking of subjectivity should be to think psychical depth or interiority in terms of the inscription and projection of corporeal surfaces" (183). This undermines the more traditional notion of the seat of consciousness being inside the body—and hence separate from the world—so that locating subjectivity on the surface becomes an attempt, as it were, to turn bodies inside out and outside in" (183). Grosz's discussion of subjectivity in terms of the inscription and projection of the body surface, then, seeks not only to undermine the body/mind dualism which equates woman" with body," but also to posit a new kind of subjectivity—one which is not trapped in or determined by an essential body, but one which is constantly shifting and changing as the surface of the body shifts and changes. The psyche is thus not a separate essence located within the body, but a projection" of the surface of the body, while also being inscribed" by those social, physical, cultural, and temporal forces which mark or change the surface of the body. The key term here is inscription—the outside of the body is re-thought as a signifying surface, a surface upon which is written the discourses of social institutions and cultural practice, as well as a surface which has the capacity to signify." This is the body-as-social-text; different than the text displayed in the surgeon's office, but one which may have significance in its interaction with the text of the x-ray.

In the case of the Crash Test Dummies song, I would argue, following Grosz, that the I" is missing from the image in the song's lyrics because the surface, the skin of the body, is absent. Perhaps what is missing" in the x-ray is not so much evidence of an essential aura or soul," but the markers which define the person in a social environment—visible for the most part on the surface of the skin. These markers have become transparent, leaving only the traced outlines of the relatively anonymous bone structure. Abuse and malnutrition may be written into the bones, but love, and fear—the pains of the psyche—remain on the surface, sketched on the skin by a lifetime of unconscious or intentional inscription: scarification, lines on the skin, cosmetic alteration. While writing in its own discourse of medical objectification, the x-ray attempts to erase the social and cultural surface of the body, raising the possibility that this is precisely where the subject" of the x-ray might, if anywhere, be located. For the Crash Test Dummies, the missing mind's eye" is a cause for anxiety; but for anti-essentialist feminists, it may be a vindication of the notion of a shifting corporeal definition of self" which is not dependent upon the maintenance of the distinction between inside/self and outside/other for the construction of a viable subjectivity.

Reading Grosz's model of self as inscription and projection of corporeal surfaces, the Supermodel" cartoon becomes even more enlightening. While it's quite clear the joke rests on the idea that the supermodel is in some sense transparent" because she's unhealthily thin (and by extension, spiritually thin" inside), what is equally missing is evidence of her body as a socially inscribed surface—what Susan Stewart calls the self constituted outside its physical being by its image" (131). To look at the supermodel's body is really not to see it at all: we're more fascinated by what's absent—cellulite, blemishes, imperfections, childbirth scars, i.e. the marks of the lived body—than by what's present. In fact, the supermodel's body surface is a highly overdetermined product of the technologies of visualization—the camera-ready body must be kept thin, worked out, made up and finally airbrushed. Thus the critique to be drawn from the cartoon is not that the supermodel is thin because of an internal failing of character (vanity), but but because of the social forces which inscribe (or more accurately, both overdetermine and make invisible") her body. Ironically, in this case, the supermodel is perceived to be superficial" (depthless, concerned with surface) precisely because the cartoon adheres to a depth model of the psyche.

Re-writing the Body

Perhaps inevitably, the search for the subject inside" the body has not stopped with medical imaging. The Human Genome Project, the recently completed" scientific project to catalogue the human genetic code, has promised to provide the blueprint in flawless digital form for creating the DNA to build a complete human body. The Human Genome Project is interesting because it has raised the stakes of mapping" the human body by treating it like a transparent object made entirely of code. This is not so much a visual mapping (as with the x-ray) as a textual mapping; the double helix resolves into gene pairs and textual markers (e.g., p53, the tumor suppressing gene). It becomes a literal physical text, a body whose genetic code can be re-written" through gene therapy, or even created from scratch, so that the 'body as text' means more here than a mere metaphor to describe cultural 'readings' of the body. It means that the biological body itself, its genetic material, is organized like a text" (Schwab 204).

However, if the x-ray can be made to show that the self" is not necessarily a ghost inside the body," but rather exists as a constitutive product of the sociocultural domain, then the Human Genome Project might also suggest more radical ways of undermining the determinist text of potential illness written in the body. The movement from visual to textual analysis of the body leads us to the same questions as we have already discussed in the example of the x-ray: where is the marker for illness? Where is my mind's eye"? Just as with the x-ray, we are confronted with the inside/outside dichotomy, with the double act of looking at" and looking through" to try and make sense of the body mapping produced by the human genome project. This accounts for the anxiety and curiosity aroused by identical twins: if the genetic material is the same, then what makes them unique individuals, with separable selves"?

I would argue that again, following Elizabeth Grosz's formulation of subjectivity as corporeal inscription, we are looking in the wrong place if we try to find a self" in the double-helix of the human genome. While genetic mapping can tell us a lot about the potential of a human body, the way particular human genes come to be expressed is a product of random chance and mutation, not just the blueprint" so well publicized by media portrayals of the Human Genome Project. Further, the particular arrangement of genes in a human body cannot tell us how that body will grow and change according to outside factors such as early nutrition and care, or the life—scars and all—that person will lead, both mentally and physically. Thus the mind's eye" is again not to be found in the scientific mapping of gene pairs, but rather in the lived experience of the body.

If popular culture has a lot to say about the x-ray, the popular genre most fascinated with genetic research is science fiction. Rather than cartoons and songs about finding the human self, science fiction imagines futures where we can manipulate genetics to create new bodies and thus new kinds of subjectivities. In the case of the Human Genome Project, there is suddenly again a ghost in the text, haunting us with its tantalizing opportunities: can we change who we are"? For feminist theorists, this textualization is simultaneously a scary and a hopeful possibility. Donna Haraway's cyborg, committed to the retooling of the natural" body in order to show that all natural bodies are actually constructed in discourse, embodies the possibility that the physical forms we are born with might not have to be socially apprehended in the ways they have been in the past. Utopian and feminist science fiction, in particular, imagines futures in which bodies can not only be socially re-coded," but also physically changed at a genetic level. A cyborg semiotics" could mean new and radical bodies (and hence embodied subjects) of the type envisioned by Vonda MacIntyre in her science fiction novel, Superluminal, in which genetically-engineered group of workers know as Divers" decide as a group to alter themselves to work in deep space; or perhaps the encoding of human subjects into completely digital form, such as those envisioned by Pat Cadigan in Synners and Pretty Boy Crossover." In each of these cases, the genetic body-as-text offers the possibility that what we see in the x-ray might not be a fatal killer coded into the body, but the chance to rewrite" the body, and thence the experience of the subject—socially, culturally, and perhaps even (scarily) physically.

Nevertheless, although I have suggested that the x-ray and other imaging technologies can be read as producing a powerful space of possibility for imagining new bodies and subjects, I am aware, also, that these technologies simultaneously point to another, less pleasant, future. Luckily, perhaps, the completion" of the Human Genome Project has left many researchers with more questions than answers—how to actually usefully apply their newfound knowledge is a tricky debate, encompassing both what is possible given current technologies, and what is morally permissible." Moreover, the notion of effortless digitalization of the body by medical technologies also depends upon a slippage between the virtual and the corporeal, a slippage bridged by the transcendence of the number as a universal paradigm. Here, perhaps, we can finally find our ghost in the mind's eye, but not in the way we expected: N. Katherine Hayles's observation that [i]n the face of such a powerful dream, it can be a shock to remember that for information to exist, it must always be instantiated in a medium, [for example] ... the computer-generated topological maps used by the Human Genome Project" (13). The transparency so longed for in order to retool the human body leads us to forget that the body always comes back, like a ghost in the x-ray machine. Despite its claims for transparency, the map is not the territory.

Environmental ghosts also haunt the Human Genome Project. Not only does the mapping" of the genome necessarily involve statistical interpolation, but the translation of the body into clean numbers hides the ways in which these numbers are re-coded every day, by both the random chance of genetic expression, and the external conditions of our existence in a (post)industrial environment—the mutation of cells into proliferating cancers under a hole in the ozone layer caused by massive fluorocarbon production, or the creation of a monstrous genetic inheritance through the invisible chemicals involved in microchip manufacturing. The x-ray machine (ironically itself cancer-producing in large doses) is used to both diagnose disease and to set up the paradigm of medical knowledge which demands that the body is fully transparent and thus fully manipulable. But to believe that one can re-engineer every body is to forget the concrete inequities which render such a technological fix unlikely. We forget to ask the question: who will receive the benefits of such technologies?

Genetic engineering could mean the erasure of life-threatening cancers and hereditary diseases; it could also encourage the tailoring of über-children as depicted in particular brands of science fiction (for example, the 1998 film, Gattaca, a rather dismal vision of a future where everybody who can pays for a spotless genetic profile, which incidentally looks like Uma Thurman), or the rioting of a population desperate for longevity treatment in an already overcrowded world, such as that imagined by Kim Stanley Robinson in Green Mars. The distribution of MRI and PET-scanning equipment throughout the world is itself an indication of how many resources these technologies consume to operate—many countries do not even have access to these technologies. For these countries, the x-ray itself is an indicator of the unequal distribution of wealth; the x-ray machine, now a second-rate piece of imaging equipment when compared to the MRI, stands in for the more expensive imaging technologies used routinely by first-world industrialized nations.

Finally, both the x-ray and the Human Genome Project prove to be spaces both evacuated of and saturated by meaning. Hugh Crawford observes that [i]n the field of medical imaging, theories, techniques, and rhetorics converge to produce knowledge" (67). Certainly these theories, techniques, and rhetorics constitute the socially legible body which appears in the photographic image of the x-ray; but the emptiness of this image also points to the spaces in knowledge—those things we cannot know about the individual subject of the x-ray, and the (environmental, economic and symbolic) slippages we repress in order to claim that the imaged body stands a chance of being cured. Similarly, the Human Genome Project is the product of a convergence of laboratory research, painstaking theorizing and a certain amount of modeling and mathematical extrapolation. But the gaps in knowledge remain, as well as the fact that no amount of genetic mapping can guarantee the upbringing, behavior or experience of the human body. In other words, the truth" so craved—and simultaneously discredited—by Agent Scully is not to be found in the x-ray image she holds, nor in the missing mind's eye" of the Crash Test Dummies, nor in Frau Röentgen's horrified response to her transparent hand, but lies somewhere else, in the space between the body and its always already alienated image. Feminist corporeality must depend upon this deferral to both create and critique the means by which we might rethink our bodies and ourselves in the age of technological imaging. For corporeal feminism, the x-ray and the Human Genome Project reveal that the truth" is somewhere and nowhere; inside-out, and outside-in.

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Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Boston: MIT Press, 1999.

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Cadigan, Pat. Synners. London: Grafton, 1991.

——. "Pretty Boy Crossover." Patterns. London: Grafton, 1989. 127-38.

Carter, Chris (Dir.) "Memento Mori." The X-Files. Fox Television, 1997.

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Cartwright, Lisa. Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine's Visual Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

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