This dissertation examines the influential relationships between popular culture depictions of superheroes and the substantive, malleable, and real possibilities of human body transformation. Cultural discourses condition and constrain the ways in which identity and bodies are formed and expressed. This includes popular culture texts that, through their evocative narratives, provide guidance or solutions for dealing with real world problems. From the perspective of communication studies, this project involves examining ways people project and perform fantastic future versions of humanity in relation to popular culture artifacts, like superheroes, but also examines how such projections are borne out of and get expressed through our everyday, less than extraordinary experiences. Key theoretical tensions regarding identity and culture are elucidated. These tensions are then developed discursively into a genealogy of body transcendence that features the historicizing of social functions to determine from where such tensions and changes manifest, and how they ultimately affect us. Several key artifacts are introduced to help inform the investigation, including eight specific superhero body types that provide an ideal perspective through which transformative power can be observed. The superhero discourse is particularly relevant because it offers a utopian/dystopian tension regarding how the splendor and seduction of the discourse materializes in both liberating and problematic ways. Another aspect of this embodied approach involves adopting the alternate superhero persona of Ethnography Man. By undertaking my own identity transformations, I am better able to investigate spaces that encourage such identity slippage and play, such as the annual San Diego Comic Con International. The once strongly held perception that our bodies are fixed and stable is fast disappearing. In bridging the body with culture through a genealogy, it becomes much more apparent how body transformations will continue to manifest in the future. Therefore, from the experiences and analysis contained herein, implications regarding powerful discursive conditions and constraints that influence our ability to change take form in revealing, problematic, and sometimes unexpected ways. More specifically, implications of who has power, how it is exercised, and the effects of power will materialize and indicate whether or not everyday humans have the potential to become superheroes.
- Super bodies and secret skins: a genealogy of body transformation
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Statement of Responsibility
by Scott Daniel Boras