Mark Doerksen

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Concordia U.

Grant number

Gr. 9289

Approve Date

April 19, 2016

Project Title

Doerksen, Mark D., Concordia U., Montreal, Canada - To aid research on 'The New Humans: Emerging Theories and Practices of Sensory Modification,' supervised by Dr. Kregg Hetherington

MARK D. DOERKSEN, then a graduate student at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, was awarded a grant in April 2016 to aid research on ‘The New Humans: Emerging Theories and Practices of Sensory Modification,’ supervised by Dr. Kregg Hetherington. This ethnographic research examines the Canadian and American grinder scenes to gain insight into the role of senses in understanding and responding to social problems. Grinders, a subset of biohackers, aim to enhance themselves by assimilating emerging material technologies (including, but not limited to, electronics) with their bodies through experiments and surgeries. They opt for a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach in order to maintain a sense of agency that might be lost if pursued through traditional means, such as ‘normalized’ medical research, ethically constrained university research, or market-driven private industry. How do grinders make sense (literally and figuratively) of their bodies as a site for enhancement? Findings suggest grinders conceive of the human body as a hybrid of positivism and constructionism, determined by its techno-biological material yet simultaneously amenable to endless modification. In practice, however, the results of the tension between stability and variability tend to reinforce hegemonic social and economic relationships. What grinders ultimately enhance is the ability to adapt their physical bodies to social uncertainty brought about by the accelerating digital economy of information.