Critical Life Studies: Posthumous Life and Inhuman Ethics
This theme aims to take up the aftermath of the so-called "death of the human" and the microontologies hidden by the humanist veneer. Here the team will investigate the ways in which “life” might be counterintuitive to ethico-politics. Insofar as the concept “life” is a defining trope in the humanities, it becomes the ‘that which cannot but be maintained as sacred,’ an irreducible given, and signals an adherence to a basic form of humanism. In thinking beyond the human and humanism, we must also relinquish a certain claim to life as thus sacred. For, how can we account for the immaterial forces, the pre-accelerated motor of self-overcoming, and the ultimate inevitability of human extinction in the face of this sanctity of life? This culture of life includes such discourses as: the politics of right to life, quality of life campaigns, considerations about whose lives matter, and even algorithms to attach a financial value to a person’s life for the purposes of insuring it. There will be several projects under this strand.
1. Inhuman Rites and Posthumous Life:
There has been a century or more (at least) of various modes of post- and anti-humanism. These range from extending the basic philosophical insight of modernity that human forms have no determined essence other than the existence they make for themselves, to the anthropological and social claims of difference and to the more recent technological creations and observations of non-human life. This current volume differs from the rich and diverse responses to post-humanism in three integrated ways. First, rather than declare the existence of post-humanism as some revelation that marks contemporary life, we accept both the necessity and impossibility of the post-human: there has never been a definitive, final and accepted norm of what counts as humanity, as the very concept of the human has always been intertwined with the openness of self-definition. Post-humanism has always been a necessary gesture in marking the distinction of the human, at the same time as the modes of this distinction have never been able to purify themselves of other forms of non-human life (including other species, inorganic life, and technical life). Second, the post-human is an urgent practical problem in a significant range of registers. These include: the attribution of rights or responsibility (to non-human species, inorganic life and future life forms); the limits of what counts as human for the purposes of disciplinary practices, such as the humanities and social sciences; the residual humanist norms in public policy (such as the concept of human sustainability that underpins climate change rhetoric), and the assumptions of some minimal degree of human coherence that subtend the humanities. Given the impossibility of arriving at any consensus or essence of the human, how do we proceed with the knowledge practices and political structures that presuppose some substrate of humanity? Finally, this volume will challenge many of the current modes of post-humanism that proceed by expanding the range of those features of life that had always marked the human. Far from including animals, the environment or the globe within the norms of worthy organic and subjective life, we pose the problem of an ethics and knowledge beyond the principles of organic existence.
Confirmed authors include:
Elizabeth Grosz, Rosi Braidotti, Paola Maratti, Cary Wolfe, Myra Hird, Alastair Hunt, Akira Lippit, Donna V. Jones, Nicole Anderson, Rebecca Hill, Susan Heckman, Karen Barad, and Frida Beckman.
2. Returning to the Skin: A MicroZoontology
Monograph in progress
Last updated: 2013-09-22