Biomedicine and the Making of the Familiar Strange

2019 marks the centenary of Freud’s seminal essay ‘The Uncanny’ (Freud 2003 [1919]). According to Freud, the uncanny is not simply that which makes us afraid, the macabre or the gruesome, but the unease that emerges when that which is most familiar turns strange or hostile. To articulate this sense of the familiar estranged, Freud draws heavily on stories about bodies and bodily metaphors: automatons, doubles, and doppelgängers, dismembered limbs coming to life, foreign bodies within one’s own.

Over the past hundred years, our understanding of the human body has undergone a series of radical transformations. A hybrid of nano-, bio- and info-technologies are opening up new ways to work on, in and even create bodies. Through new knowledge and technologies, we are rendering ourselves uncanny in new ways.

The Uncanny Bodies project revisits Freud’s original articulation of ‘uncanny bodies’ a century later in the light of new biomedical and technoscientific advances. The project explores how the notion of the uncanny can contribute to the sociology of health and medicine, draws on social scientific research on biomedical technologies to update Freud’s original articulation, and brings academics and creative writers together to experiment with writing about biomedicine, uncanny bodies, and technology in different modes, both individually and collaboratively.

The project will result in a unique anthology that will combine sociological and literary writing about uncanny bodies. Our intention is for this to be published in 2019, to mark the anniversary of Freud’s original essay.

Old Surgeon’s Hall Edinburgh