Body Like a Rocket: Performing Technologies of Naturalization

Sarah Rebolloso McCullough

Abstract


This article examines how athletes embody and perform technologies in ways that question the "natural" human form. Through a historical review of the political implications of science and technology in the modern Olympics and a close analysis of Speedo bodysuit swimwear featured since the 2000 Summer Olympics, I explore how technologies produce boundaries between "natural" bodies fit for competition and deviant bodies along lines of power. The interaction of material technologies and athletic bodies allow both the athlete and viewing community to participate in myths of human progress that is both separate from and reliant on technological enhancement. The sporting event becomes simultaneously a performance of the natural abilities of the human body and the physical enhancement of human ability through a high-tech product available for purchase to anyone with enough capital. Building on the work of feminist and science studies scholars, a close analysis of the material-discursive production of technologies reveals the tangled political investments of powerful groups, nations, and corporations in perpetuating modern narratives of progress. These networks mobilize technologies to define what constitutes "natural" human bodies, creating power differentials across subject positions of gender, class, race, nationality, and ability.

Keywords


science; Olympics; technology; sport; body; progress; performance; nature; biological determinism; technological determinism

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