The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2019 | The Psychosocial Life of Sexual Implants
Document Actions

The Psychosocial Life of Sexual Implants

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Marquard Smith
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Annette-Carina van der Zaag; Dr. Phaedra Shanbaum
Project Description:

Theoretical discourse on the body and technology has become increasingly “abstracted” from lived realities, while empirical studies focus on particular experiences of technological use relatively removed from overarching philosophical issues. This rift occurs at a time when bodily transformations through technology, such as sexual implants, increasingly enter popular discourse. Implants are rapidly becoming markers and modes of control and regulation of different types of individual and group identities as reflected in increased media coverage and public consumption. However, a robust framework for analysing and articulating how these developments effect the sexualisation of bodies and identities remains relatively absent. This studentship will make a significant contribution to understanding the contemporary character of the relationship between technology and the body. Its focus is on ‘sexual implants’, that is technological devices placed in a human body to support, mediate or enhance bio-sexual structures: for instance, contraceptive implants, breast implants, penile implants (particular research object(s) to be selected by the student). Implants can be understood as “technologies of the body” through which bodily matter and psychosocial identities are sexualised in particular ways. Furthermore, like other technologies, sexual implants are part of ongoing biomedicalization projects that emphasize risk reduction/management, improvement and transformation of health and bodies. Thus, sexual implants might sexualise bodies and identities in specific ways, but these constructions take place across a more encompassing biopolitical grid of power including pharmaceutical companies, biomedical protocols and access to health care. The project will look at how sexual implants are incorporated into bodies and what happens to these bodies when they materialize and sexualise through biomedical practices. Investigating the contemporary character of particular implants offers the student an opportunity to explore the complex ways that bodies, gender and sexuality are socio-culturally constructed through and with technology as well as to study what happens when disparate fields of activity – media and cultural studies, sociology, and medical sciences – collide.

Research objectives:

1. Contribute to the development of medical science, media and cultural studies and sociology by bridging literature in the aforementioned fields to achieve theoretical and methodological cross pollination.

2. Foster a richer understanding of the contemporary nature of the relationship between the body and technology with regards to sexual implants.

3. Contribute to critical debates pertaining to contemporary sexual identities and the transformation of bodies

Subject Areas/Keywords:

Implants; posthumanism; media and cultural theory; body studies; sociology; new materialism; sexual health; medical science; biotechnologies

Candidate requirements:

We are seeking a strong doctoral student with a Master’s degree in a relevant field in either the humanities or social sciences and who will be able to take the initiative in shaping the project to explore their personal intellectual objectives. The successful student should have a strong theoretical foundation and show proven interest in and commitment to at least one of the following fields:

-Feminist and/or queer theory with a particular focus on the body, materiality and/or science and technology

-Sexuality studies

-Medical humanities

Key References:

Zylinska, J. Bioethics in the Age of New Media. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009).

Barad, K. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).

Wegenstein, B. The Cosmetic Gaze: Body Modification and the Construction of Beauty. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012). Oudshoorn, N. The Male Pill: A Biography of a Technology in the Making. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Marquard Smith

Co-Supervisor: Dr. Annette-Carina van der Zaag; Dr. Phaedra Shanbaum

For further details about this post, please contact Phaedra Shanbaum ( or Annette-Carina van der Zaag (

Further information about PhDs at UCL is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

Adele Stapylton-Smith:

Closing date for applications is: 1 March, 2019