11 January 2008


Postmodernity, with its disillusionment of Grand Narratives, absolute truth, rationality, progress, optimism, and the ideal society, encompasses a variety of perspectives on our contemporary condition.

Postmodernity replaced modernity's outward gaze of communitarian utopia with the inward gaze of the body as the utopian project. This project is about the attainment of the perfect, imperishable body. The new postmodern utopian project of the perfect body has been called Somatopia, an inward gazing abandonment of the outward utopia.

We live in an era of the crisis of the self in the Age of Information--individualization without community. Without situatedness in community, we seek our own individual reality and truth.

One strand of this era is the medicalization of society; again due to the Information Age. One of its fantasies is that of the body perfect, the fantasy of bodily perfection. It's healthism run amuck, without rootedness in an outward community, where we used to situate ourselves. Think of the parade of perfect bodies in the media; bodies that are sculpted, medicalized, cosmeticized, surgically manipulated, air-brushed, and starved. Combine that with the rush to self-diagnose, self-screen, self-prevent, self-treat, and self-medicate. Further, look at the packed gyms straining toward the youthful look. Much of this has come about because of all the medical-health information readily available in the Information Age. We can now research, self-diagnose, and buy over-the-counter--all in the effort to delay ageing.

But, is Somatopia a utopia or a dystopia? It seems we are becoming a population of the "worried well"--we might be well, but we are worried we might not be for long. The ultimate trajectory of the futurist utopian body project is post-human, cryogenic, transgenic, cyborgian, bionic, and computerized. The postmodern condition is that we seek eternal life here on Earth, while we live as atomized, individualized bodies, in a globalized non-society.

Second, the inward utopia of the body cannot sustain itself without a healthy society and planet in which we live as bodies. Ultimately, we must balance the two utopian drives--inward/body, outward/society--to achieve healthy bodies in a healthy society.

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