Hamideh Mahdiani – How Good is Better?

How Good is Better: from Resilience Towards Enhancement?


Who doesn’t want the best? Who could argue against the “betterment of humankind” (Koch 685)? Futurists have promised this for many years but now, using applied sciences, developing post-human species, with enhanced features like longer life spans, and greater mental and physical capabilities, is not a dream any more. Enhancement, commonly related to the use of medical and technological strategies to better human traits, is not limited to recent decades or breakthroughs in genetic engineering, rather one can trace notions of expansion throughout history. This research focuses on investigating the cultural and historical genealogies of enhancement strategies within American discourse and connects the findings to the notion of resilience which the project attempts to prove as essential to enhancement narratives. For that matter, this study is divided into four parts:

The first argumentative chapter is dedicated to a deconstructive study of enhancement narratives with regards to the American discourses, specifically those dealing with mythical aspects. Using a new historicistic approach, the chapter works towards showing how scientific enhancement is rooted in cultural/social interests.

Second, working with life writing texts on the one hand, and life sciences on the other, this chapter deals with literal and medical representations of enhancement and resilience in particular those concerning the beginning of life and the end of life. The question addressed here would be: how life writing texts dealing with children, centenarians, and the military life, can illustrate historical and social aspects of enhancement and resilience?

Third, using American cultural studies, and medical humanities, the chapter asks: how can one situate neurobiological narratives of enhancement and resilience in the historical contexts of American discourses regarding three spheres: private, public and institutional.

Finally, building on debates surrounding biopower and biopolitics (Rabinow, Foucault, Guattari, Deleuze, Agamben, among others) which deal with discourses about “strategies for intervention upon collective existence in the name of life and death” (Rabinow 195), this chapter proposes that the question now is not about life and death, rather is about life, death and the quality of life.

Analyzing the findings of each chapter, in the concluding section, I will once again look at: the possible relation(s) between resilience and enhancement and the reason(s) behind it; the possible mythical nature of the two concepts; and the essence of social/cultural factors in medical enhancements, focusing on the “the genealogical history” which as Hall put, pictures “the particular traces of events on the body”.

Author: Hamideh Mahdiani



  • Hall, Melinda. The Bioethics of Enhancement: Transhumanism, Disability, and Biopolitics. London: Lexington Books, 2017.
  • Koch, Tom. “Enhancing Who? Enhancing What? Ethics, Bioethics, and Transhumanism.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, no. 35, 2010, pp 685-699.
  • Rabinow, Paul, and Nicolas Rose. “Biopower Today.” Biosciences. no. 1, 2006, pp 195-217.