Avital Ronell's Body Politics

Elissa Marder

in The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780823240555
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240593 | DOI:
Avital Ronell's Body Politics

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This chapter explores the relationship between technology, politics, and the maternal function by looking at Avital Ronell's important work on the telephone as a fantastic, fetishistic extension of the maternal body in The Telephone Book. It takes up Ronell's provocative claim that investment in a certain repressive concept of the mother (as the grounding and stable incarnation of “nature,” “origin,” “connection,” “meaning,” “presence,” and “life”) is one of the critical sources of the technological drive. Moreover, because (as Ronell points out) the technological drive is most often linked to an attempt to deny the reality of the body's vulnerability and mortality by replacing (or supplementing) it with a body that does not know death, the driving fantasy of technology is the (re)production of a prosthetic maternal body which would be capable of procreating and incarnating this “pure life.” But “pure life” resembles death more than it does “life” as it privileges preservation, immobility, and absolute resistance to change or difference. Consequently, the prosthetic maternal body is an inherently monstrous and repressive figure.

Keywords: Avital Ronell; Telephone Book; Crack Wars; toxic maternal; prosthetic maternal; telephone; ear; anal-sadistic superego; drugs; addiction

Chapter.  7514 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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