The intensive course “Human/Inhuman/Posthuman” offers an introduction to contemporary debates around posthumanism and the so-called ‘posthuman turn’, as well as Rosi Braidotti’s brand of critical posthuman theory. The course will explore the extent to which a posthuman approach displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject, as well as the binary human/non-human distinction on which such unity is postulated. Starting from the assumption that we find ourselves in a ‘posthuman predicament’, the course explores different aspects of posthuman subjectivity and culture, stressing the productive potential of the posthuman condition and advocating for the politics of affirmation.
This is an intensive course convened and taught by Prof. Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, Director of the contemporary arts centre BAK, with some guest teachers. It consists of keynote lectures in the morning and three thematic tutorials for four afternoons (the class ends at noon on Friday). The theme of the course this year is: “Human/Inhuman/Posthuman.” The course is about contemporary posthuman theory, with special reference to the works of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, to feminist and postcolonial theories and to Rosi Braidotti’s work, placing special emphasis on the relation between arts, technology and theory.
Cultural diversity, global migration, digital ‘second life’, genetically modified food, advanced prosthetics, robotics and reproductive technologies are familiar facets of our global and technologically mediated societies. How do they affect the self-understanding, the cultural representations and the social and political participations of contemporary subjects? How does a neo-Spinozist approach based on vitalist materialism illuminate these issues? The emphasis on nomadic theory aims to outline a project of sustainable modern subjectivity and to offer an original and powerful alternative for scholars working in cultural and social criticism.
If art and the humanities share one thing, it is the human at the centre of their respective realms, or rather, their mutual investment in how people process, document, and analyse their human experiences. Under the pressure of new contemporary realities, however—global neoliberal capitalism, migration, technological developments, depleted nature and devastated environment and the ‘anthropocene’, to name but a few markers of our time—the concept of the human as we had previously known it has undergone dramatic transformations. Not only have some been dehumanized to the level of becoming “inhuman,” but even the phenomena we thought to have controlled (such as nature), or thought to have invented and control (the capitalist market, technologies, among others), have become increasingly dominant in our lives in the current posthuman age.
Following Foucault’s method, the course provides discursive and material cartographies of the impact of these developments on the construction of critical but also affirmative posthuman subjects today. The course assesses the extent to which intense technological mediation and global networks have blurred the traditional divide between the human and non-human other, thus exposing the nature-culture continuum as the constitutive structure of the human subject. It also attempts to assess the escalating effects of the posthuman condition, which encompass new relationships to animals and other species and ultimately raises the question of the sustainability of our planet as a whole. After delving into the inhumane and structurally unjust aspects of our culture by looking at new wars and contemporary conflicts, the course concludes by outlining new forms of cosmopolitan nomadic citizenship and new art practices that explore this complexity. Rather than perceiving the posthuman situation as crisis that entails the loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, this course argues that it helps us make sense of our flexible but ethically accountable nomadic identities.
Arranged thematically, the sessions of the course explore the different aspects of critical theory debates about contemporary subjectivity and the posthuman condition: the feminist anti-humanism, post-anthropocentric thought, the intersection with postcolonial theories, the impact of modern technological developments on the social and political structures and on contemporary warfare, as well as the implications of these shifts for the institutional practice of the humanities.
Course dates: 24 August – 28 August 2015
Location: Utrecht City Campus, the Netherlands
Deadline for registration: 1 May, 2015
Costs: 500 EUR (course + course materials)