Visual Activism and the Twenty-First Century Prosthetic Limb

by Taylor Ketcham

Institution: Wake Forest University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Amputation
Record ID: 2027909
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10339/39299


The introduction of this thesis provides a brief history of prosthetic limb technology, introduces a Deleuzian and Groszian critical framework, and coins a new critical term – the "phantom-phantom limb," defined as the phantom one creates when projecting his or her own insecurities towards his or her personal `temporary able-body' onto an amputee's site of amputation. Viewing prosthetic limbs from a Deleuzian critical framework highlights an amputee's ability to actively and publically engage with the "phantom-phantom limb" in two specific ways – by wearing an "industrial prosthetic limb" and/or an "aesthetic prosthetic limb." The former, discussed in "Chapter One: The Industrial Prosthetic Limb," is a tool with which the amputee engages with his or her material surroundings based on a Deleuzian "desire," thus inspiring a gazing public to think creatively about how they may do the same. The latter, discussed in "Chapter Two: The Aesthetic Prosthetic Limb," is a tool with which the amputee intentionally expresses his or her individuality or "self" to the onlooking world. In both circumstances, the public figures discussed in the chapters to follow can be seen as visual activists who engage with the inquisitive stares of others, whether able-bodied or not, through prosthetic limb use. The amputees highlighted show society the body's capacity for extreme personal evolution through visual activism.