Alien Hands, Need I Say More


Boy do I have an interesting post this week. I came across this issue a few years ago in researching neurological disorders. There is a medical condition known as Alien Hand Syndrome in which patients become disassociated from their hands which move independently, even performing complex or violent acts in some cases.

I found this to be particularly applicable to this weeks reading, especially in consideration of Bennet’s push to move beyond “human exceptionalism” (2005:452). The human hand is traditionally considered well within the sphere of human control and influence and the actants involved in the assemblage of locomotion are generally taken for granted. Alien Hand Syndrome, however, becomes a blatant reminder of the assemblage around something as simple and “human” as moving our own hand and involves neurons, diet and nutrition, myelin fiber sheaths, stroke, age, and the list goes on. It reveals that Bennett’s conceptions of efficacy, directionality, and causality can still have significant, experientially powerful outcomes at all levels.

Finally, it brings into question her discussion of responsibility. People with Alien Hand Syndrome have been known to commit violence, against themselves and against others. How do we trace the “culprits” in an assemblage such as Bennet’s? In the rhizomatic universe of Deleuze and Guattari in which there is no central pivot point to trace back to and in which each puppet string leads to yet another puppet string (8-9), how do we effect change? In their quest to cure AHS, doctors rely on the medical belief that symptoms denote sickness in a cause and effect relationship. If this isn’t the truth and we live in a complex, “sticky web of things” (Bennet 2004:365) is there hope to cure these patients, to have influence at all? How are we to account for or even begin to imagine the multitude of interrelation involved in this rhizomatic world? And how are we to hold anyone accountable when we can’t trace the myriad of actants involved? Is this new world to based entirely on intentions because the road to hell…


One Response to “Alien Hands, Need I Say More”

  1. narfe Says:

    Wow that would be unfortunate, to say the least. I noticed that she said that she was unaware of the hand until it “drapped itself in front of [her]”, no longer considering the hand to be a part of her body (or at least I wouldn’t refer to a part of my body as “it”…). I almost couldn’t believe it at first, so I had to click on the links. Turns out… “[Those with alien hand syndrome] may struggle to stop the movements,” Inzelberg told Reuters Health, “restrain the limb, punish it, talk to it, personify or refer to it as a third person. The may even say that an evil spirit exists in the hand. In a sense the hand is the ‘Other.”’

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