The Struggle of Being Alive: Laboring Bodies in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl

Juliane Straetz


This essay reconsiders the Marxist question of how value is created through work and expressed within a lived experience of the body in a near-future setting that is characterized by an expanding impact of biotechnologies. To do so, I will read androids – organic, humanoid beings – as an allegory of the human laborer in a globalized capitalism. The object of my critical inquiry will be Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel The Windup Girl as it uncompromisingly draws the critical attention towards laboring conditions of laborers of the working class especially in the Global South. It does so by exemplifying social injustices by telling the stories of marginalized laborers. This essay focuses on the android Emiko – a former secretary who is forced to work as a prostitute. By examining her, I want to demonstrate that an analysis of laboring bodies – especially in an increasingly technologically inflicted world – is crucial to the study of living and working conditions since these determine whether we feel alive, autonomous, accepted, or lifeless, restricted, and devalued.


labor; body; Marx; science fiction; biotechnology; enhancement

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