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Critical Posthumanism

  This entry originally appeared in Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, eds., Posthuman Glossary (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). Reproduced with permission. Critical posthumanism is a theoretical approach which maps and engages with the “ongoing deconstruction of humanism”.[1] It differentiates between the figure of the ‘posthuman’ (and its present, past and projected avatars, like cyborgs, monsters, […]

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Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s work demonstrates an intriguing mix of elements from within posthumanism, as her work seems to destabilise a number of humanist, binary categories including human and machine, human and animal, subject and object, self and other and male and female. In some ways, Gaga embodies what we might consider the figures of the posthuman […]

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Deep-Sea Mining

From countering the idea that “nothing could live in the deep sea” to exploration of the deepest parts of all of the world’s oceans, deep-sea mining (DSM) is the latest technological evolution in deep-ocean exploration. In this brief immersion into DSM, I discuss how a posthumanist new materialism provides a relational lens through which to […]

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Animality and Blackness

In an interview published in 2015, Sylvia Wynter concludes her discussion of the history of Western humanism with the suggestion that “humanness is no longer a noun. Being human is a praxis”.[1] This idea of humanness (and non-humanness) as praxis is one that critical posthumanism has embraced on multiple fronts, attempting to deconstruct liberal humanism’s […]

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Blade Runner: 2049 and Biotechnology

Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner: 2049 (2017), the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), explores many of the same topics, including the development of advanced biotechnology and the (in)ability to distinguish between humans and bioengineered replicants. Like Scott’s Blade Runner, Villeneuve’s 2049 considers how ‘human’ and ‘nonhuman’ identity is constructed. Because replicants’ physical appearances do […]

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Derrida and Posthumanism (II): The Animality of the Trace

This post is part two of a three part series. Read part one here. Jacques Derrida’s marathon lecture on ‘L’animal que donc je suis’ for the décade (ten-day conference) on ‘L’animal autobiographique’ at Cerisy-la-Salle in July 1997[1] can be seen retrospectively to have marked the ‘official’ entry of his work into posthumanism, within which it […]

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Derrida and Posthumanism (I): From Sign to Trace

If one of the aims of posthumanism is to re-elaborate critically, without falling back on exceptionalist constructions, the nature of what humanity means, from its problematic inception to its uncertain, constant becoming, then Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction of what constitutes (the inscription of) a trace is highly relevant. From some of his earliest texts the French […]

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Golding’s Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors, and Human and Nonhuman Interconnectedness

William Golding’s novels are famous for their bleak depiction of the human condition in which violence, dark urges, and primordial egotism prevail. The author, however, made it clear in his Nobel Lecture that he is ‘a universal pessimist but a cosmic optimist’,[1] and while his opinion of the human as such might not be a […]

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Microbial Life

The science and philosophy writer Dorion Sagan, son of Lynn Margulis,[1] began his 2011 lecture in the Anthropological Society’s series The Human is More than Human[2] by quoting from Claire Folsome’s entry for ‘Microbes’ in the 1985 book The Biosphere Catalogue. Folsome describes a thought experiment in which an alien drops down through the ceiling and […]

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Hamlet, Shakespeare and Posthumanism

‘… they imitated humanity so abhominably.’ (III.2.34)[1]   The affinity between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and some of the existential questions raised by contemporary posthumanism, despite the four centuries that lie between them, is striking. From the beginning of the play, the question of identity, and of the identity of the human more specifically, is the main […]

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