www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Gerburg Treusch-Dieter on the Theology and Technology of Cloni
Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 19 Jan 2000 18:29:46 +0100 (CET)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Gerburg Treusch-Dieter on the Theology and Technology of Cloning


[The following is the text of a lecture which Gerburg Treusch-Dieter held
in Rotterdam on 19.12.99 during a Wiretap-programme with the title 'De
onbevangen bevlekkenis/ Die unbefangene Befleckung', an untranslatable
word-play, i.e. reversal of 'onbevlekte ontvangenis', the immaculate
conception. Treusch-Dieter is well-known in the German-speaking countries
as a prolific philosopher and feminist who actively engages in debates
around reproduction technologies and their social and epistemological
meaning. Only few of her texts have been translated into English (this one
only by an apologetic non-native speaker ...), and she has recently
expressed an interest in pursuing an English compilation of essays. If
anybody is seriously interested in supporting such a publication project
and might even be able to help find a publisher, please, contact Andreas
Broeckmann <abroeck {AT} v2.nl>. -a]


	+	+	+


Gerburg Treusch-Dieter

The Gender of the Genes

On the Theology and Technology of Cloning


Genes have no gender, but the 'Christian occident' knows a genealogical
formula, which has, since generations, determined the gene ratios of the
male and the female within the symbolical order of gender difference. It
allocates the ratios of the male and the female by generating what is then
applied as 'gender' to the genes which are themselves an effect of this
socio-cultural genesis. The crucial genealogical formula can, in the
'Christian occident', brought down to the ABC of a theology which prepares
the ground for the technology of rationalisation of the genes. Put in
general terms, this formula is: A brings forth B, by means of C. 

Translated into words, this formula implies that the spirit A produces a
logos B which it conceptualises as incorporeal on the one hand, and as
corporeal on the other.. This is because the spirit acts simultaneously as
a father who generates a son, so that this son may represent the heavenly
father here on Earth. In this formula the real generation of the son is
conditional on the existence of a symbolical father, for whom the mother C
is dispensable (dt. verzichtbar) on the one hand, and necessary on the
other. She is dispensable, in so far as the father produces the son
metaphysically, and she is necessary, in so far as he conceives him
physically, because unlike in heaven, here on Earth his body is
indispensable. 

By means of the mother, the need for a body is satisfied. She is used as
the means of his physical conception in the incorporeal generation of the
son. So, if A, the father, brings forth B, the son, by means of C, the
mother, then she gives birth under the condition that she is both excluded
from, and included in this formula. On the one hand, the birth from the
mother is dispensable, it is negated in the incorporeal generation of the
son with respect to the aspect of exclusion, on the other hand it is, with
respect to the aspect of inclusion, the necessary means of his corporeal
conception. Really giving birth, she does not bring forth anything
symbolical, because she is metaphysically dispensable from the
genealogical ABC-formula, while being physically necessary. She is coded
as an empty vessel for a spirit 'in the name of the father', a spirit who
produces what she reproduces. She must 'clothe' the incorporeal with a
body whose theological generation anticipates today's conceiving
technology. 

Although this theologically generated, technological conception, which
meanwhile works here on Earth in the form of in-vitro fertilisation, may
initially still be conceptualised in heaven. Although the mother may be a
means which, as a vessel, is not yet a test tube used in this in-vitro
fertilisation. But the metaphysical sperm sender of theology already
implements a physical sperm donor, just like in in-vitro fertilisation. 
Moreover, God's word which fertilises Mary's ear according to that
genealogical ABC-formula, God's word contains an information of life which
is linguistically analoguous to the information of life of the genetic
code on whose ACGT today's in-vitro fertilisation is based. Similarly, in
both cases, the sperm donor is absent from the female conception in the
name of a sperm sender. And birth, which has to happen in pain, in labour,
is - in God's perspective - a work, that is: labour, which is put under
the doctor's supervision in the laboratory. 

In so far as this supervision results in an insight about an information
of life that is no longer enunciated by god but by the code, it is
conditional on the metaphysical negation of the physical birth, which
culminates in the virgin mother. She is the theological condition for the
technological positivisation of the birth in which the mother does not
really have a part, because she is a virgin. She is a woman appearing as a
boy, a mannikin that is similar to the man by whom it is produced. The
rest is crossed out to the degree that it is appropriated by the insight
into, and the supervision of, the evolution of life. The birth is
spatialised into the laboratory where the accumulation of knowledge passes
as the acceleration increases. 

Today, this rest has been used up. The evolution of life is available
outside of the female body. It can pass incorporeally, just as is
predicated in the genealogical formula, A brings forth B by means of C. 
Obviously, this formula thus loses out against that which it created. On
the level of the Real, it has come to an end. However, this does not
exclude the possibility that the imaginary effects connected to the
symbolical ABC, continue. Their stories remain fixated on that which is
negated in this formula by the spirit. His knowledge therefore refers to
fictions. A virgin mother is such a fiction which is not only based on the
negation of birth, but also on the fiction of the absence of the -
indispensable - fucking. 

In its place moves the production which, however, can only replace the
conception in one respect. At the same time, the fucking remains a factor
in the theo-technological game, a game which is fixated on fucking and
whose spirit of knowledge is, in the last instance, Science Fiction. As a
film genre, Science Fiction today is the theo-technological copulation
movie which is imaginarily connected to the symbolical ABC of that
formula.  It mixes the Fiction of conception myths with the Science of
real, generated facts, based on the double condition that the formula has,
on the one hand, come to an end, and on the other, that it hasn't. The
copulation film of its father-son-genealogy tears precisely at that point
where cloning, where the splitting and the multiplication of the genetic
code appears. The copulation movie is no longer tied to an order of gender
difference which is, at the same time, a pre-condition of its knowledge
production. 

In Alien Four, the fourth return of an imaginary horror that is, in the
first instance, indebted to the symbolical negation of birth, the
conception myths come back with a vengeance to the degree that the logos
descends into the chaos of a decoded information of life whose reference
is the Mother: What the hell is inside of me, tell me what is inside of
me!? - that's what the man with the priest's face is screaming. Ripley
steps in front of him and, sniffing inquisitively, she says: a monster,
even a particularly dangerous one. How does she know this? Ripley answers:
Because I am the mother. - What the hell is inside of me, tell me what is
inside of me?! - this is also what Mary could have screamed after Gabriel
had stepped in front of her and announced that she was receiving a little
child through the word of God, even a particularly harmless one. How does
he know this?  Gabriel, sniffing at the white chalice of the lily, would
have answered:  Because I am God's representative. 

Two identical, yet opposite stories. Both refer to the ABC of that
genealogical formula, in which the mother is excluded as well as included. 
In the former, the man gives birth to a monster that derives from the
mother. In the latter, the woman delivers a child who has been promised by
the father. In both stories something alien penetrates the body which has
horrible effects in one case, and pleasurable effects in the other. There
it derives from chaos, here from logos, as though one was separable from
the other. Both stories show that this is not the case, they stage the
image-less quality of chaos and logos as an 'image', there in the movie
Alien Four, and here in the text of the Bible which is a pre-condition for
the movie. Its script reels off the symbolical order of gender difference
which is sung of every year when the Christ Child descends. Here, every
year is this year in which the birth of the Christ Child coincides with
that of an alien who, however, is not identical with the Christ Child but
with his mother. 

This mother may be a virgin, but only in so far as she is enclosed in this
order; in so far as she is excluded from it, she is Alien. His birth is an
imaginary effect of the genealogical formula of this order which negates
the reality of the birth, without being able to ban its revolting return,
because she is the most secret as the most eerie, to which Freud refers
with regard to the 'age-old home of humankind' - that is, with regard to
the cunt. Alien Four shows which chaos wells from this secret and eerie
cunt when it is not subordinate to the prick of the logos. Because at the
intersection where logos is submerged by an information of life that
splits and multiplies in chaos, this copulation movie presents a
de-copulation which culminates when Ripley's uterus mutates into the alien
of the 'queen' which was born from it. 

Slimy and black and guilty is she, whose monsters proliferate everywhere,
and especially in the body of the man with the priest's face. Lily-white
and innocent the counter-image, Mary, who is also a 'queen'. But her body
conceals neither the most secret nor the most eerie, because there God's
word materialises as the Christ Child. The dramaturgy of the script
maintains that the virgin birth determines the Alien pregnancy. Mary's
ear, which receives the logos, cannot be separated from Ripley's uterus
which gives birth to chaos. Firstly, because this ear replaces the cunt,
and secondly, because the horror of this 'age-old home of humankind'
returns with a vengeance in the splitting and multiplying information of
life. 

Mary and Ripley are one construction of femaleness. Their vessel is empty,
yet simultaneously 'full of evil'. This fiction is particularly unpleasant
when it comes to fucking, because the sperm neither wants to be poured
into the void, nor does it want to fill the evil even more; therefore the
script for Alien Four does not take male sperm into account. As a
virgin-alien, Mary-Ripley gives birth unfertilised. This means that it is
not the cunt which is the most secret and eerie in the
father-son-genealogy, but the male sperm. It is the best-kept secret of
the theology from which the technology of its replacement derives. Whether
God's representative is called Gabriel, or Gabriel's representative
Joseph, and so on, the metaphysical sperm sender always substitutes a
physical sperm donor who, in the last instance, neutralises himself by
substituting the sperm by a spermless substitute. 

Thus, the sperm is the Alien, the essentially alienated. It is equated by
the Alien as the counter-image of the virgin, just like the woman as the
boy, who - as a mother - is a mannikin. The nothingness of the sperm is
projected onto her, who as Mary brings forth nothing, and as Ripley,
nothingness. Both parts of this construction of femaleness are ascribed
the imaginary effects of a secret and eerie fertilisation by the male
sperm that is negated in the virginity of the mother, and that is
absolutely concealed by the claim that she is giving birth out of herself.
She may not bring forth anything but nothingness, but that is her own
fault - not despite, but because the male sperm is involved. This chaos,
produced by the logos, is imposed on the fertilised, non-virginal mother.
It's supposed to be she who gives birth to the monsters of its reason, and
to her herself as a monster - just like Eve, the 'mother of all evil'. 

In the Bible, Eve is created by God, from Adam, as a theological monster
of the man under the condition of an absolutely concealed fertilisation,
because neither Adam's sperm, in so far as God is his representative,
enters into Eve, nor vice versa, in so far as Adam is God's
representative.  For Eve, on the other hand, it means that she does not
only fertilise herself with her fruit, but that Adam is also strangely
fertilised, to whom she passes on her fruit. She creates herself as a
monster and as the one who will proliferate in Adam. Ripley is a replica
of the 'mother of all evil', whose counter-image is Mary. Like Eve, Ripley
creates herself and others as monsters, like Eve she is created under
absolutely concealed conditions: in the high-security section of the space
ship in whose laboratory a team of scientists operates as the latest
representative of God. 

To the degree, however, that Ripley replicates Eve's theological
monster-birth as a technological monster, to that degree the absolutely
concealed aspect of her creation is not her fertilisation, but Ripley is
cloned on the premise of her genetically manipulated information of life. 
This is the final consequence of the substitutive fertilisation of the
father-son-genealogy. Cloning substitutes for the sperm a spermless
substitute. Yet despite this de-copulation, the copulation movie
continues.  Ripley seems to give birth to herself out of herself as the
Alien who releases others from itself, in particular the one in the body
of the man with the priest's face who screams: What is inside of me?! This
man could also be Adam, infected by Eve's fruit. Or Gabriel who, despite
sniffing at the chalice of the lily, does not ejaculate. Or Joseph who
does not masturbate while Mary is giving birth to his sperm, the Child
Christ, whose nappied prick is also hidden away. 

At the same time, the aspect of cloning in the script of Alien Four
introduces a certain reversal. This reversal not only consists in the
termination of the theology of sperm-replacement through the technology of
cloning, to the extent that it realises the substitution of this
fertilisation through the abolition of the sperm whose absolute
concealment has thus been accomplished. The reversal also implies that in
this interface the sperm comes into force as the essential Alien. This
because Ripley's clone, who is on the one hand Mary's counter-image, this
clone is, on the other hand, the sperm to which Mary gives birth. But it
is alienised, because it has never been spilled, something that is
extensively made up for in Alien Four in the shape of ejaculated,
pus-covered manure which infests everything and everybody. When Ripley
finally confronts herself with herself as a clone from which a malformed
creator's hand springs up, while this clone is in labour, like Mary, in
order to give birth to itself and to other aliens as monsters of reason,
at that moment Ripley takes her gun - and shoots. 

This gun was not at the disposal of the sheep whose clone is the lamb
Dolly. That's why the story of that copulation and de-copulation movie
continues, just like Christmas is followed by Easter - yet, outside of the
movie. At Easter, the Christ Child turns into the Lamb of God, so that
Mary would correspond to that sheep that does not shoot. Moreover, there
is no real difference between the clone of that sheep, the lamb Dolly, and
the child of Mary, the Lamb of God. From one may flow symbolical blood,
while from the other one flows real milk with human proteins, both are
determined by salvation and healing, even if the one sheep is occupied by
the pharmaceutical industries of the Church, and the other one by
PPL-Therapeutics. 

But should the Church claim that its male lamb overcame death and was
resurrected after two days, the female lamb Dolly can still compete. 
Because the sheep which was the medium for Dolly's genetic replication, as
though in a virgin birth out of itself, this sheep had already passed away
two years earlier. The cell nuclei of its udder came from the cold of an
aluminium container, a conservation beyond death, which is doubtlessly
more effective than the cold of a burial chamber among the rocks, for two
days, Good Friday and Saturday. 

But why did the bishops condemn Dolly, rather than, like good shepherds,
penning this cloned sheep in once again in the Kingdom of God? Initially
there is only this answer: The bishops condemned themselves as they saw
that with this cloned sheep, the formula, A brings forth B by means of C,
had reached its genealogical end. The broken shepherd's staff signifies
the phallus of patriarchy, from which the 'black sheep' Dolly could
escape, white as a lily. 

As a fatherless lamb it can not only refer to one, but to three mothers
who have been used for its cloning, and to its godmother, Dolly Parton,
the Country singer, with her tits like udders, who gave it its 'name of
the mother'. Through their condemnation, the bishops thus agreed with the
end of an 'order of creation', an end which had always been implicit in
that order. Because this order had always aimed at the sperm-less
reproduction of the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who
discarded with the fertilised matter, matrix or mother. 

But this answer brings other questions with it. Firstly, has this
patriarchal trinity been reversed by the lamb Dolly into a maternal
trinity? Secondly, would this trinity which, independent from everything
male, delivered the cell nucleus of the udder, the cover of the egg and
the uterus for Dolly's cloning, would this trinity also have been possible
as the trinity of a single sheep? Thirdly, would this trinity-sheep be
able to carry itself through over and over again, so that it would be
immortal?  Fourthly, are women finally allowed to rejoice whole-heartedly
and sing country songs, like that Country singer and name-giving godmother
of the lamb Dolly? 

The answers have to be negative. The sheep-motherly trinity is lacking the
egg which every year has to be hidden at Easter, even though this would no
longer be necessary. Because "with a capillary tube thinner than a hair,
he" - Ian Wilmut in the laboratory of Roslin's 'Science City' - "sucked
the genetic material from the egg" in order to 'make room', by means of
this 'enucleation' for a nuclear transplantation, which in Dolly's case
may have originated from the cell of an udder, which however could also
have been taken from any other cell of the body, because unlike the germ
nucleus these always have the advantage of a complete genome. 

Enucleation and nuclear transplantation are the 'scientific quantum leap'
of the spermless Dolly-reproduction which brings nothing new on the one
hand, yet, something absolutely new on the other, as the techno-logics of
cloning is both the execution and the abolition of its theo-logics which
has never favoured the 'sex roulette' of sexual intercourse - not even
between rabbit and egg at Easter. What is new is not that the egg becomes
obsolete together with the always already hidden sperm that was the
absolutely hidden aspect of the theo-logics which the US-based bio-ethics
theorist Shapiro continues under the condition of techno-logics of
cloning, when he says with reference to the obsolescence of the germ
cells, "that in principle there is nothing to say against a-sexual
procreation." 

If, however, the techno-logics of cloning deploys body cells each with a
complete genome, rather than germ cells each with half a genome, this is
absolutely new, because the question of the forbidden or permitted
intervention into the 'path of germination' can be skipped. It is obvious
that this technological perspective is announced as a theological
salvation which leads to healing. For, as Shapiro states: "The non-sexual
reproduction in the laboratory is more radically human than that through
sexual intercourse", because it is "a desired, planned and controlled
reproduction" through the dispensation of the germ cells. 

These questions circumscribe today's technological rationalisations of the
genes, whose gender is predetermined theologically by the genealogical
formula ABC. Yet, to the degree that this formula has reached its end, the
fear emerges which, in Alien Four, is presented as the horror of Christian
conception myths, based on really generated facts. Ian Wilmut leaves no
doubt: "The fear is completely legitimate. We have said from the
beginning:  With our method it is also possible to make genetic copies of
humans." It is his aim that this method may, "completely shed its
egg-shells. The cover of the egg and the uterus would be dispensable if it
became possible to cultivate foetuses from the genome of body cells
directly in the laboratory, which would be far more efficient." These
egg-shells are still sticking to the lamb Dolly, even though it is already
father- and mother-less, like the Lamb of God has always been, in so far
as it is the fiction of a Spirit that does not negate the egg-shells, but
the egg which he wants to lay himself, without fucking. Therefore Dolly,
not slaughtered at the cross, but cloned at it, asks, quietly, like that
sheep whose copy it is: "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

Easter is followed by Christmas, the Dolly-clone is followed by the
Alien-clone, we can be sure of that. The shot at the malformed creator's
hand that springs up from one or the other clone is indispensable, but
where is the sheep that not only has a gun at its disposal, but that can
also - cloven-hoofed - shoot with it? I finish with this question which is
passed back to the possibilities of cloning. 


(concept translation: Andreas Broeckmann, V2_Organisation,
Rotterdam/Berlin) 



#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net