Deconstructing Fictions of Illness and the Terrible Future to Come

Andrews, Alice. 2011. Autoimmunity: 
Deconstructing Fictions of Illness and the Terrible Future to Come. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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Abstract or Description

Autoimmunity, a term from the life-sciences, refers to that strange behaviour where an organism’s defences turn on and against its own tissues. Autoimmune disease marks this process as a painful, suicidal, and terrifying relation to one’s own body. Taking an autobiographical approach to autoimmune illness, this thesis examines the autoimmunity of the autos ‘itself’ in order to deconstruct a paradigm of immunity that paralyses one within process of self-destructive- defence. With Jacques Derrida’s appropriation of autoimmunity the term enters a deconstructive philosophical discourse. For Derrida, autoimmunity attacks not (only) the body but immune defences themselves and names the opening of the body to the future ‘to-come.’ And yet, the use of this term is couched in a rhetoric of terror that emphasises the threat of even worse events ‘to-come.’ This thesis explores whether the trauma of autoimmunity need necessarily emphasise an exponential threat that only refers to the worst. Or, whether this trauma might be ‘treated’ in a manner that affirms autoimmunity. Amongst the treatments employed are various narratives of science and science fiction. Chapter One explores the relations between biomedical and deconstructive autoimmunity and treats their traumatic symptoms psychoanalytically. Chapter Two employs the immunitary logic of systems theory to comfort my dis-ease, a dis-ease I share with the laboratory animal. While Chapter Three turns to the biopolitics of immunity and Roberto Esposito’s account of an affirmative biopolitics. However, while each of these ‘treatments’ attest to the possibility of opening the terror of the trauma to-come to the promise of better, they also repress, suppress, and ignore the possibility of a radical finitude, which, for Derrida, is essential for any ethical relation. Yet, if a radical finitude here takes on the character of the worst, it must be emphasised that it is an autoimmune finitude, for better or worse.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


autoimmunity, illness, deconstruction, autobiography, science fiction, biopolitics, systems theory, psychoanalysis

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures



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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2012 12:17

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:15


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