Seth Messinger, associate professor of anthropology, has partnered with Ellen Garvens, visual arts professor at University of Washington, in arts-based research exploring the everyday lived experiences of people who wear prosthetics. They seek to challenge cultural assumptions about limb loss, prosthetics and how technologies redefine the physical body. They argue that although prosthetic technologies capture people’s imaginations, the everyday physical and psychological experiences of prosthetics wearers are underexplored. These include the processes of adjusting to limb loss and adapting to a prosthetic limb.
Although they have different research processes, the scholars share similar goals. Messinger reflects, “Meaning formation is a deeply personal process and there are many ways to try to access it. Art offers a provocative way to extend the anthropological encounter with bodies and technology.” Messinger and Garvens hope to expand on initial work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, finding new ways to visualize prosthetic limbs and connect with both soldiers who have experienced limb loss and prosthetics-makers. Learn more about the research project through coverage from the Society for Visual Anthropology.