Transparent manipulation : the public arguments of medical imaging

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2017-05

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This dissertation examines the production, circulation and reception by lay audiences of images of the interior of the body. The purpose of the study was to identify and define the rhetorical strategies that creators use to appropriate and disavow scientific authority when addressing inexpert publics, and the reading practices engaged in by those publics. These strategies and practices are examined in relation to four texts: (1) full-body scanners used in airport security; (2) the Love Has No Labels advertising campaign; (3) the Pin-Up 2010 promotional calendar, and; (4) Damien Hirst’s sculpture installation, The Miraculous Journey. My analysis of airport full body scanners reveals that the appearance of objectivity afforded by machinic vision and claimed by security professionals occludes the way such vision is used to identify and penalize bodily difference. My analysis of Love Has No Labels demonstrates that computer-generated X-ray vision claims to visualize an originary humanity that pre-exists difference, while reiterating norms that identify difference as something that exists only in relation to an imagined and unnamed neutral position. My analysis of Pin-Up 2010 reveals that the calendar relies on an imagined and produced ideal femininity that is erased, requiring viewers to do the work of recreating the ideal feminine figure in relation to a pre-existing indexical notion of gender. My analysis of The Miraculous Journey shows that Hirst strategically claims and repudiates scientific authority to legitimize his construction of the female body as worthy of representation only in the service of reproduction. In all four cases, creators appropriate authority through practices of production and visual citation, while disavowing that affiliation in favor of connections to security, pleasure and beauty. As a result, the images’ circulation amongst lay audiences online simultaneously disrupts and reinscribes cultures of expertise and domination that disproportionately and negatively impact white women and people of color.

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