Communication and Construction of Monstrous Embodiment
June 15-16, 2012

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Welcoming 2012 (a wee bit late)

We are back! Hello, and happy new year, and our deepest apologies for such a long silence. It had been our intention to post a little bit over the holidays, but like most holiday goals we fell short and were lost in a well-spiced mulled-wine abyss for much longer than we expected.

However, to kick off the year we'd like to draw attention to a kind of companion post which ties in surprisingly well to our last post of 2011. This article by Susan Dominus was brought to our attention recently and seemed rather appropriate given the news we brought you around Christmas time of the successful birth of conjoined twins Jesus and Emanuel in Brazil.

Dominus' article, (and warning, it is quite a long-winded one), focuses on conjoined twins Krista and Tatiana Hogan in British Columbia, Canada, who, as craniopagus conjoined twins, raise quite a different question regarding subjectivity and separation. In many ways, the interest isn't any different from the traditional obsession with conjoined twins' shared experience and exactly how far it extends - experiments exploring shared sensation never seem to change much beyond the pinching and prodding of first one twin and then the other. However the notion of a thalamic bridge does seem to offer a uniquely complex set of questions regarding Krista and Tatiana's development and the prospects for their future identity.

The article also raises and glosses over some of those aspects of life as conjoined twins which have historically always seemed to hover in the shadows. While she specifically refers to the family's refusal to subject the twins to unnecessary medical study (“If one of them needs it for their health, by all means, they can do what they need to do,” said their step-grandfather... “But I’ll be damned if you’re going to poke and prod and experiment on them”), she also makes extensive reference to the response of the medical community to the discovery of the supposed thalamic bridge.

Similarly, the article appears to emphasise the girls normality, almost going so far as to suggest an absence of any spectacular element in their public lives (“Guests might have looked for a half-second longer than they ordinarily would, but they invariably smiled at the sight of the girls’ evident glee, just as they would at any other two small children”) and yet refers not only to the fact that the girls have been the subject of a documentary (on the National Geographic channel, to be precise), but also rather glossing over the family's pursuit of a reality television show.

This endeavour seems to be inspired by talent manager Chuck Harris, who in this interview is titled a “freak wrangler, manager and talent agent ”, and who refers to himself as  “the conductor of a symphony of wackos... When you need something strange and eye-popping and nobody knows where to look, I’m the guy to find it for you.”

While the idea that the twins may share more than just physical sensation is a fascinating one, and no one seems to deny that it poses brand new implications for understanding subjectivity and a sensed embodiment, their labelling on the part of one neuroscientist as “a new life form” and their engagement with a self-identified “freak-wrangler” seem to raise some unfortunately more familiar ghosts of the past.

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