CT Scanner

Above: General Electric Optima CT Scanner at Narayana Multispecialty Hospital, Whitefield, Bangalore, India, 2013. Credit: Narenfox.

Medical Gaze

In vivo imaging of the interior internal structures of the functioning-living human body tend to make our own bodies seem profoundly "alien and obscene (IB: 57)." The "endocolonization" of the human body reveals "the anonymity of anatomy beneath the human skin (IB: 56)." The cold perception of medical science is a cruel, demeaning and dehumanizing gaze--following Foucault, and as per Walter Benjamin's prediction of 1931 that under the photographer's lens, all intimacy will eventually yield to the illumination of detail (IB: 57).

Personal autonomy and self-determination over one's body is a basic right in law. This important principal of freedom is being incrementally impoverished, not necessarily by laws passed or decreed, but rather insidiously by the rise of modern tech-based medical equipment--the MRI and CT scanner, endoscope, ultrasound system, etc. These machines are "probing our hearts and loins in real time (IB: 29)." Or equally, "no-delay real-time teletechnology inevitably leads to the intraorganic intrusion of technology and its micromachines into the heart of the living (AM: 100)."

The interior of the living human body is frequently scrutinized and subject to an aloof techno-medical gaze. A gaze which often derives its images from micro- or nano-machines that enter and travel through bodily route-ways. The journey of these micro-devices is comparable, for Virilio, to a colonization of the human bodily "territory" by an invading imperialist force, "today, it is the [human] animal body that is being threatened with colonization by micromachines (VW: 55)." In this sense, "technology has never stopped invading bodies (CP: 126)." The human body "will be subject to the reign of biotechnology, of nano-machines capable not only of colonizing the expanse of the world, but also the very thickness of our organisms (OS: 100)."

When under observation, the living human must remain still, actually frozen, or else be anaesthetized--the human becomes a living object of scientific study. A subject without will. An object. The patient is "given" an X-ray or a scan. Virilio quotes Wilhelm Reich: "you don't have bodies: you are bodies (AD: 53)." The human is no longer an inhabitant rather he has become a habitat (CD: 84).