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Hawking Incorporated: Stephen Hawking and the Anthropology of the Knowing Subject

By: Helene Mialet

272 pages, 14 b/w photos

University of Chicago Press

Paperback | Jul 2012 | #198158 | ISBN-13: 9780226522289
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £18.50 $24/€22 approx
Hardback | Jul 2012 | #198157 | ISBN-13: 9780226522265
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £58.00 $74/€69 approx

About this book

These days, the idea of the cyborg is less the stuff of science fiction and more a reality, as we are all, in one way or another, constantly connected, extended, wired, and dispersed in and through technology. One wonders where the individual, the person, the human, and the body are--or, alternatively, where they stop. These are the kinds of questions Helene Mialet explores in this fascinating volume, as she focuses on a man who is permanently attached to assemblages of machines, devices, and collectivities of people: Stephen Hawking.

Drawing on an extensive and indepth series of interviews with Hawking, his assistants and colleagues, physicists, engineers, writers, journalists, archivists, and artists, Mialet reconstructs the human, material, and machine-based networks that enable Hawking to live and work. She reveals how Hawking--who is often portrayed as the most singular, individual, rational, and bodiless of all--is in fact not only incorporated, materialized, and distributed in a complex nexus of machines and human beings like everyone else, but even more so. Each chapter focuses on a description of the functioning and coordination of different elements or media that create his presence, agency, identity, and competencies. Attentive to Hawking's daily activities, including his lecturing and scientific writing, Mialet's ethnographic analysis powerfully reassesses the notion of scientific genius and its associations with human singularity. This book will fascinate anyone interested in Stephen Hawking or an extraordinary life in science.

Helene Mialet has offered a brilliant and provocative book, taking the example of Stephen Hawking to probe the contemporary articulation of 'man'. What we discover is the anthropos radically rethought as an assemblage of body, machine, media event and image, object, and industrial effect. Indeed, the human body turns out to be a series of interrelated connections, and this book persuades us to rethink our most basic ideas of human form and the tasks of science itself.
- Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

"On a terribly risky topic, Helene Mialet manages with a delicate and caring touch to approach one of the most vexing questions of science studies: how to give a concrete description of the material network able to generate abstraction? By connecting disability studies, distributed cognition, and the ethnography of formalism, she also manages to write a moving portrait of an embodied mind at work."
- Bruno Latour, Sciences Po Paris

"'Hawking Incorporated' offers a new analysis of the ways in which the scientist Stephen Hawking's persona is produced and used in an astonishingly wide range of spheres. Using materials from interviews, film and audio records, correspondence and informal documents, Helene Mialet offers nothing less than a new anthropology of the contemporary scientist. This is a story with a fascinating cast: assistants, students, secretaries, archivists, physicians, engineers, journalists, and filmmakers all figure as key participants in the enormous work of sustaining and distributing Hawking's projects. Mialet's tactful and astute inquiry addresses the intimate details of the modern scientific world: its artful use of ingenious software, computational diagrams, and calculating aids; its ceremonial system of lectures and conferences; its career structure of disciplinary training and public mastery. The book will be of inestimable value both as a highly original biography of a fascinating intellectual presence and a broad study of one of the most important themes in the culture of modern sciences."
- Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge

"'Hawking Incorporated' provides a social anatomy of how Stephen Hawking--as a physicist, person, and cyborgian collective--lives and breathes in human space-time, even as his theories reach toward a cosmic elsewhere. Helene Mialet takes the reader on an anthropological odyssey through the worlds of those assistants, machines, students, and TV documentary teams that have helped to conjure Hawking as the singular figure he has become. When Mialet finally meets Hawking in person, the results are riveting and revelatory."
- Stefan Helmreich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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Biography

Helene Mialet has held positions at Cornell, Oxford, and Harvard Universities. She currently lives and teaches in Berkeley, California.

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