Neurocriticism historicized

by , under Uncategorized

By 1800 a type of microcosmic neurosociety had historically developed in Edinburgh, capital of the Scottish Enlightenment, whose tentacles stretched far into Britain and even more widely on the European Continent. Yet we have little sense of its forward¬† development and transformation in the next two centuries apart from narrow disciplinary currents: neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropsychiatry, psychoanalysis, etc. The cultural contexts have been left out, especially society and social ramifications. Boldly we plunge into Facebook’s networks without recognizing that even now we are being asked to manage our public and private identities in this most radically neurobiological of eras.

During our generation we have become so accustomed to neuro-social commentary that we overlook neurosociety’s¬† trajectory from the 1800s forward. We marvel at the medical applications of the neurosciences in our era – especially neuroimaging – and the imaginative flights of new subdisciplines such as neuroeconomics and (turning to literature) the neuronovel. But the cultural history of these developments remains terra incognita. How can we confront adequate neurofutures built on ethical neurotechnologies if we have no neurohistories apart from the all too recent narrow cyborgian ones?