Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A new phd possibility:

Interdisciplinary Scholarship

Deadline April 18th 2013

Topic: The Human Face in Contemporary Anglo-American Culture.

Principal Supervisor(s): 
Name: Adam Piette (Professor of Modern Literature) and Fabienne Collignon (Lecturer in American Literature)

Name: Paul Hatton (Professor of Bioengineering & Health Technologies), School of Clinical Dentistry

This project is directed at exploring the portrayal of the human face in Anglo-American culture, with a specific focus directed at science fiction film and fiction from H.G. Wells on to the present day. Of particular interest are man-machine amalgamations; the editors of the Cyborg Handbook (1995) identify a wide range of cyborg technologies as, for example, restorative, normalizing, reconfiguring, enhancing, degrading. Rather than focus on the whole (cybernetic) organism, what this project seeks to do is to home in on the face as locus of expression and affect, and to trace its modifications at hand of such cybernetic technologies, often concerned with facial sensory extensions like eye enhancements; the development of aural capabilities. The project is, however, further interested in exploring related technologies—genetic engineering, cross-species experimentation, plastic surgery, grafting and implants, teeth interventions—in order to address the politics of these processes. In their search for body utopia, the development of man into superman, these procedures are haunted by the spectres of fascism: what biopower is at work in bio-engineering? A further premise of the study is the erasure of distinctions between science fiction and the present moment: contemporary culture is science fiction. Hence any investigation into the human face as impact zone of techno-fantasies will be alert to the overlapping narratives of perfection and plasticity between science, science fiction/horror, and utopia. By investigating the portrayal of the human face in contemporary film and media, this also explores the societal use of medical, dental, and cosmetic interventions in the development of a “perfect” face, demonstrating some of the more unusual or worrying aspects of the human obsession with beauty (and at the same time relating this to what the media portrays as beautiful and— more challenging—how and why the current model was arrived at and where it is going). There is a potential translational aspect of this research in the areas of sales & marketing, cosmetics, and the media industries, providing future opportunities for knowledge exchange, collaboration and consultancy. This project is interested in exploring the power relations at work in the portrayal of the technologized and plastic human face in contemporary Anglo-American culture. What cultural codes exist in the fluid ‘text’ of the face in the 20th and 21st Centuries and how are they challenged in or perpetuated by contemporary culture? A considerable amount of work has been done on the cyborg body, but a study remains to be conducted to focus exclusively on facial technologies of enhancement and modification. In the process, it will investigate the cultural norms that dictate ‘beauty’, the desire for self-modification through technology, and the mechanisms expected to be constitutive of an elusive ideal: the ‘perfect’ face.

Expressions of interest are welcome from candidates from a variety of disciplines – we are looking for enthusiastic, lively and committed students with projects focussing on any of the aspects covered in the above. If you have any queries about your project idea or suitability, please contact Fabienne Collignon (

How to apply

Interdisciplinary Scholarships provide an annual bursary of c. £13,590, Home/EU tuition fees and a contribution to research expenses. application.

Applicants should apply through the University's online application system. Applications should contain a research proposal that fits with the above project as well as a 500 word statement as to why you are interested in undertaking a PhD in this area.

Any queries about this Scholarship please contact Harriet Godfrey (


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