The ante-tempus narrative:fictions of medicine and prevention

Liorsi, Benedetta (2016) The ante-tempus narrative:fictions of medicine and prevention. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis explores, through the lenses of science fiction, the discourse of prevention and mass-medicalisation in the context of contemporary neoliberal capitalist societies. My analysis is triggered by contemporary medicine’s shift towards a practice of ‘futurology’, which seeks less to cure existing diseases than to prevent their occurrence in the first place. At a moment in which medical advances and interventions are shaping the present according to future needs, in order to face, before time, future threats to human health, I advance the emergence of a new medical subjectivity: the ante-tempus patient. This subjectivity describes the condition of those individuals who become objects of medical intervention before the need of a cure manifests. This study proposes the ante-tempus patienthood paradigm to define the individual and collective subjectivity affected by the confluence of medicine, biopolitical control, and neoliberal economics characterising the contemporary Western world, which Nichols (2008) has termed the ‘age of prevention’. I argue that this paradigmatic subjectivity is explored and problematized in a number of sf texts of the new millennium. These narratives present medically and biopolitically managed societies in which prevention has become a hegemonic paradigm, and where the idea of curing has been substituted by a tendency to manage illness, or reproduce illness in the present, ostensibly in order to benefit the future. By focusing on a medical reading of these texts, I suggest a parallel between the ills of the body preventatively treated, and the ills of the body of the state treated by preventative measures. I analyse The End Specialist (Magary 2012), The Unit (Holmqvist 2010), Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro 2005), and Minority Report (Spielberg 2002) as speculative diagnoses of contemporary society and as dramatisations of the preventative drive operating in non-fictional social contexts. In addition to sf scholars and novelists, I thus engage in a dialogue with theorists and sociologists’ approaches to medicalisation and biopolitical management of the population, including Michel Foucault, Peter Conrad, Nikolas Rose and Eric Cazdyn among others. My study pursues provocative questions in the realm of medicine, regarding biological exploitation, transparency, and the use of biological information. In connection to this, I investigate the politics of attempts to manage the present, responding before time to projected risks and to ideological narratives and representations of the future, questioning the way this affects the agency of the medicalised neoliberal subject. I conclude by advancing the necessity of seeing the danger of preventative strategies, not simply in their actualisation before time, but also in the self-justifying, persuasive, and ‘speculative’ fictions that they create, through the spectacle, and spectacularisation, of the future.

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Thesis (PhD)
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29 Mar 2017 09:56
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:22