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Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Posthuman Body

Author: Kim Toffoletti
Publisher: New York: I.B. Tauris, 2007
Review Published: October 2009

 REVIEW 1: M. Beatrice Bittarello
 REVIEW 2: Birgit Pretzsch
 REVIEW 3: Nicholas Yanes
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Kim Toffoletti

I'll begin by thanking each of the reviewers for their thoughtful and thorough survey of Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Posthuman Body. While quite different in their focus and critique, each review provides an accurate assessment of the aims, main arguments, and intellectual scope of the book. This is wonderful affirmation for me as a scholar and author, knowing that the central tenets of the book have been adequately conveyed to readers. Perhaps most gratifying about this suite of reviews is the general consensus that the book brings fresh and original insights to the study of posthuman images in popular culture.

It is encouraging that Bittarello and Pretzsch both make mention of my methodological approach to images, finding this dimension of the research to be novel and worthy of further development. As all three reviews note, Jean Baudrillard's writing on simulation culture forms the basis from which I seek an alternative encounter with images, one that rejects "the critical approach of trying to find out what an image 'means,' to find the 'true' message behind the veil of representation" (Pretzsch). This is a vital dimension of the book, and one that I hope provokes and advances feminist debates around technology and the relationship between images and reality. I am concerned, however, that this "provocation" to engage with simulation theory and think about the relationship between representation and reality in new ways (especially in an era of virtuality) risks being misconstrued as a dismissal of material concerns and embodied existence. Bittarello remains "unconvinced that materialist feminism's objections to Baudrillard and critical theorists' worries are negligible," and I acknowledge her concerns. It is not my intention in the book to discount these insights. Rather, in the spirit of Baudrillard's writing, my work seeks to generate another point of engagement with the real, inciting encounters with the world that confound, but do not ignore, conventional frames of reference.

I appreciate that Prezsch and Yanes refer to the accessible structure and tone of the book. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I seek out and draw on a wide range of ideas from various disciplinary fields in my research, and it is reassuring that this approach is endorsed by the reviewers. To hear from Yanes that my survey of gender-technology and posthuman debates gives the book pedagogical applications for the teaching of feminism, science fiction, and Baudrillard studies is terrific. I am also pleased to hear of the book's potential relevance to feminist critiques of religion from Bittarello.

One final insight that is particularly illuminating for me appears at the commencement of Yanes' review, where he observes that Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls distinguishes itself from other surveys of the posthuman by looking at cultural artefacts that are not cyborg characters from screen culture or texts from the sci-fi canon. I have not thought about the images I analyse this way before, and I appreciate the reviewer drawing my attention to it.

In concluding, I'd like to thank the reviewers again for such thought-provoking critical, commentary on the book and to RCCS for giving me the opportunity to have my book reviewed, featured, and discussed in this forum.

Kim Toffoletti


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