Posthumanity and the Prison-House of Gender in Douglas Coupland’s <i>Microserfs</i>


This article aims to analyze Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs with a deliberate emphasis on posthuman theory, body politics, and gender to construe the transformation of the human body, human-machine nexus, and captivity in inhumanity with a struggle to (re)humanize minds and their bodies. One of the arguments of the paper will be that posthumanism offers a new outlet for breaking the chains of captivity, that is, escaping into non-human to redefine humanity and to emancipate the human mind and human body to notch up a more liberated and more equitable definition of humanity. As gender and sex are further marked by the mechanical and mass-mediated reproduction of human experiences, history, and memory, space and time, postmodern gender theories present a perpetual in-betweenness, transgression and fluidity and the dissolution of grand narratives also resulted in a dissolution of the heteronormative and essentialist uniformity and solidity of the human body. Gender in a posthuman context is characterized by a parallel tendency for reclaiming the possession of the body and sexual identity with a desire to transform the body as a physical entity through plastic surgery, genetic cloning, in vitro fertilization, and computerization of human mind and memory. Therefore, the human body has lost its quality as gendered and sexed and has been imprisoned in an embodiment of infantile innocence and manipulability, a “ghost in the machine,” or a cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism (Haraway). The human-machine symbiosis, then, is exteriorized and extended into a network of objects switching “natural human body” to an immaterialized, dehumanized, and prosthetic “data made flesh.” In this regard, Coupland’s Microserfs boldly explores the potential of posthuman culture to provide a deconstruction of human subjectivity through an analysis of human and machine interaction and to demonstrate how human beings transgress the captivity of humanity by technologizing their bodies and minds in an attempt to become more human than human.


Douglas Coupland; Microserfs; posthuman; cyborg theory; gender

Baudrillard, Jean. The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Sage Publications Ltd, 1998.

Baudrillard, Jean. Screened Out, Translated by Chris Turner, Verso, 2002.

Bordo, Susan. “From Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body.” Norton

Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent. B. Leitch. W.W. Norton Company, 2001, pp. 2362-2376.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Coupland, Douglas. Microserfs. Harper Perennial, 2008.

Fitting, Peter. "The Lessons of Cyberpunk." Technoculture, edited by Constance Penley and Andrew Ross. Cultural Politics 3. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991, pp. 295-315.

Halberstam, Judith and Ira Livingstone. “Introduction.” Posthuman Bodies, edited by Judith Halberstam and Ira Livingstone. Indiana UP, 1995.

Haney, William S. Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Posthuman. New York: Rodopi, 2006.

Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent. B. Leitch. W.W. Norton Company, 2001. pp. 2269-2299.

Hayles, N. K. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. U of Chicago P, 1999.

Kroker, Arthur. Body Drift. U of Minnesota P, 2012.

Levin, Charles. “Carnal Knowledge of Aesthetic States: The Infantile Body, The Sign, and The Postmortemist Condition.” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, vol. 11, no 1-2, 1987, pp. 90-110.

Miller, D. Q. “Deeper Blues, or the Posthuman Prometheus: Cybernetic Renewal and the Late-Twentieth-Century American Novel.” American Literature, vol. 77, no 2, 2005, pp. 379-407. 10.1215/00029831-77-2-379.

Nayar, Pramod. Posthumanism. Polity, 2013.

Rutsky, R.L. High Techne. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999.

Tate, Andrew. Contemporary American and Canadian Writers: Douglas Coupland. Manchester UP, 2007.

Silvio, Carl. “Refiguring the Radical Cyborg in Mamoru Oshii's ‘Ghost in the Shell.’" Science Fiction Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, March 1999, pp. 54-72

Wolfe, Cary. What is Posthumanism. U of Minnesota P, 2009.

Published : 2020-08-16

Göç-BilginM. (2020). Posthumanity and the Prison-House of Gender in Douglas Coupland’s <i>Microserfs</i&gt;. Review of International American Studies, 13(1), 197-213.

Murat Göç-Bilgin
Celal Bayar University  Turkey

Murat Göç is an assistant professor of English Language and Literature at Celal Bayar University Turkey. He received his PhD degree from Ege University American Culture and Literature Department. His main fields of interest are: contemporary American literature, literary theory, gender studies, and, in particular, masculinity studies. He is the founding editor of the Masculinities Journal and a member of the Initiative for Critical Studies of Masculinities, an academic network of scholars based in Turkey, working on establishing and ensuring gender equality, supporting LGBTI rights, and inspiring a critical transformation of masculinities.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Copyright Holder of the submitted text is the Author. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the RIAS websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). Any commercial use requires separate written agreement with the Author and a proper credit line indicating the source of the original publication in RIAS.

  1. License

The University of Silesia Press provides immediate open access to journal’s content under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license ( Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY 4.0 license.

  1. Author’s Warranties

The author warrants that the article is original, written by stated author/s, has not been published before, contains no unlawful statements, does not infringe the rights of others, is subject to copyright that is vested exclusively in the author and free of any third party rights, and that any necessary written permissions to quote from other sources have been obtained by the author/s.

If the article contains illustrative material (drawings, photos, graphs, maps), the author declares that the said works are of his authorship, they do not infringe the rights of the third party (including personal rights, i.a. the authorization to reproduce physical likeness) and the author holds exclusive proprietary copyrights. The author publishes the above works as part of the article under the licence "Creative Commons Attribution - By the same conditions 4.0 International".

ATTENTION! When the legal situation of the illustrative material has not been determined and the necessary consent has not been granted by the proprietary copyrights holders, the submitted material will not be accepted for editorial process. At the same time the author takes full responsibility for providing false data (this also regards covering the costs incurred by the University of Silesia Press and financial claims of the third party).

  1. User Rights

Under the Creative Commons Attribution license, the users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the contribution) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) the article for any purpose, provided they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

  1. Co-Authorship

If the article was prepared jointly with other authors, the signatory of this form warrants that he/she has been authorized by all co-authors to sign this agreement on their behalf, and agrees to inform his/her co-authors of the terms of this agreement.

I hereby declare that in the event of withdrawal of the text from the publishing process or submitting it to another publisher without agreement from the editorial office, I agree to cover all costs incurred by the University of Silesia in connection with my application.