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Gerontological hygiene: the role of anti-aging somatechnologies in the abolition of old age
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 10:37 authored by David-Jack Fletcher
The central concern of this thesis is to expose and critique the myriad ways in which old age has become pathologised as a disease-state. The pathologisation of old age, I argue, has been enabled and legitimised by a number of scientific and medical discourses and, most notably, through the inclusion of old age as a listing in the International Classification of Diseases index. Informed primarily by the Foucauldian concepts of biopolitics and governmentality, I aim to explore the problematic discursive and technological regimes that perpetuate what I name as 'gerontological hygiene.' As will be seen, I also deploy a neoliberal framework to complicate common understandings of age and our approaches to bodies deemed 'old'. It is my contention that old age - and aging more broadly - is currently under attempted abolition; that is, through governmental, institutional and medico-scientific frameworks, there is an attempt to abolish age and aging because it has been framed as a pathology that needs to be 'cured.' As such, this thesis is concerned with addressing the over-arching research question: 'do anti-aging somatechnologies play a role in the abolition of old age?' In the course of the thesis, I seek to examine the intricate nexus between ever-growing anti-aging discourses and practices. In the course of my thesis, I tease out the inter-relations between biopolitical governance and anti-aging somatechnologies in order to examine the critical space between biopolitics and ethics. In this way, my thesis identifies a gap in the field of biopolitical studies in its failure, largely, to address old age and, specifically, the biopolitical and related somatechnological moves to abolish it. Further, while several texts critique the ethical use of technologies in and on the disabled body, there is a further gap that fails to address ethical implications upon both the body of elderly individuals and related subjectivities. I stage a number of interventions in this field, as evidenced by the below chapter descriptions. Primarily deploying a Foucauldian lens in Chapter 1, I develop a framework of 'gerontological hygiene' to expose the manifold ways in which old age is currently undergoing both discursive and practical abolition. I proceed to elaborate on ongoing discursive practices designed to abolish old age in Chapter 2, where I examine medicalised somatechnologies such as telomere and genetic therapy, and institutionalised policy such as the World Health Organisation's Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health (2014). It is my contention that these strategies are oriented toward the abolition of old age, thus enacting a neo-eugenic regime of biopolitical hygiene. In Chapter 3, the thesis further examines the inter-connection between neoliberal self-surveillance and idealised notions of normative humanity through a critique of Heideggerian and Arendtian theories of what constitutes the human. Finally, Chapter 4 of this thesis undertakes an ethical examination of emerging anti-aging somatechnologies, drawing on Levinasian philosophy to critique anti-aging medical practice.