Abstract

The Chinese concept of wen is examined here in the context of contemporary gene theory and the "cultural branch" of gene theory called "memetics." The Chinese notion of wen is an untranslatable term meaning "pattern," "structure," "writing," and "literature." Wen hua—generally translated as "culture"—signifies the process through which one adopts wen. However, this process is not simply one of civilizational mimesis or imitation but the "creation" of a new pattern. Within a gene-wen debate we are able to read genes neither in terms of nature or culture but, in a Chinese way, in terms of "nature-culture." "Posthuman" or "transhuman" models that celebrate the creation of techno-bio bodies (cyborgs) as the continuation of the human by nonhuman means are still dependent on a clear distinction between nature and technology (culture) that is rooted in the Greek and Christian traditions. Bioengineering does not do more than gradually replacing the "given" by the "made" until the body is seen as a commodity malleable in the hands of modern technology. A wen-based genetics offers a new perspective on nature-culture continuity because it is not trapped in nature but involved in a concept of wen that a Western mind tends to identify too quickly with natural necessity.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 167-186
Launched on MUSE
2010-04-24
Open Access
No
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