ABSTRACT

This study introduces the practice of body hacking, modification, and extension of the body through technological means, and discusses a possible approach to anthropological research on people with technologically extended sensory apparatus. Most DIY modifications promise to extend capacities of the body not just quantitatively by enhancing what already exists, but qualitatively by adding new senses or organs that enable new connections with the outer world. The question is how it is possible to approach in social science research the subjective bodily experience of someone with sensory abilities beyond the human norm. This article proposes to look at this phenomenon from the standpoint of von Uexküll’s concept of Umwelt, which focuses on the study of the subjective experiential world of nonhuman animals and puts emphasis on processes of meaning creation, and not only in a symbolic and discursive way. Following current criticism of representationalism in anthropology, it will be suggested here that the Umwelt concept has a great potential for conceptualization of the technologically modified body in sociocultural anthropology and related disciplines.

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