In class on Thursday, there was a lot of discussion about what kind of ‘intellect’ is valued, which was defined in terms of rationality, science, math, mostly fact-based, something that gives definitive answers. Something that I find so compelling in this class is how much we question science and a lot of the culturally accepted ‘facts’ or ‘truths’ about science. In the readings for Thursday, especially in the chapter of Graham’s, there is a questioning of the authority of science, like with the Human Genome Project. Graham’s also brings in this discussion of disability as breaking this framework of ‘normative’ ideas of what it means to healthy and generically normal. I found it really telling that Graham mentioned the genes used in the Human Genome Project were called ‘Mr. Average’ which says about concepts of what is considered ‘universal’ in terms of gender and ability.
As we discussed in class, what is not really brought up in discussions of genetic advancements and testing, is the repercussions of discovering genetic predispositions on how we then decide who gets to be born and who is considered ‘normal,’ or even ‘human’. There is definitely a connection I find to the ideas of what we (as a society) define as ‘normal’ with what we define as ‘human’. When, for example, someone in class mentions how the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica sometimes appear more ‘human’ than the ‘real humans,’ oftentimes this is in reference to how much more emotionally in-tune the Cylons are versus the humans, and how much more aware they are of their mistakes. Being in touch with emotions is considered here as normatively human, while being stoic and alienated from emotions is considered inhuman.
Graham definitely touches on the issues of how definitions of ‘human’ are defined always in reference to what’s ‘normal’ through her discussion of disability and illness. What’s interesting is how illness and disability, she seems to argue, is an integral part of the human condition. As discussed again in class, illness and disability are often always with people in some way or another – either in connection with family members, or directly in contact in our own lives. Eliminating disability and illness out of the equation of what it means to be ‘human’ has adverse consequences on human diversity in terms of both intellectually and physically. If normativity, which I define as the culturally/societally acceptable views of ‘normal’, are used to define what it means to be ‘human’, then anything outside the realms of this constricting definition is then labeled as ‘inhuman’ or even ‘monstrous’.