Posthumanisms (Vol. 23, No. 1-2 [2015]) 

Edited by Nathan Snaza and Asimina Karavanta

Welcome are papers that engage posthumanism in ways that avoid flattening "the human" into a monolithic or homogenous problematic. We are especially interested in papers that take up posthumanism in relation to the crisis of the humanities and the ongoing crises faced by marginalized "humans" around the globe. How might posthumanist thought be symptomatic of the crisis of the humanities and (higher) education more broadly? How has posthumanist inquiry ignored the lived heterogeneities of humanness distributed across raced, classed, gendered, and differently abled bodies? How can posthumanism's critical political project benefit from being brought into intimate connection with critical race, queer, feminist, anti-colonial, and disability theories? (Deadline: 31 December 2014)


Manuscripts must be received by December 31, 2014. See below for submission requirements and instructions.

Summary of the Project:

 “The human” appears more and more de-centered today in the following modalities that are symptomatically not theorized in explicit relation to one another: the growing marginalization of the humanities by the neoliberalization of the university; an emergent interdisciplinary field called posthumanism that takes off from post-60’s antihumanist theories such as poststructuralism, and marks an affiliated and polemical discourse about “Man,” now understood not as “one,” but rather as a site of uneven and differentiated ontologies and (bio)politics; and the exponential and concurrent rise of the various dissenting multitudes comprised by the poor, the dispossessed but also the citizens against social, economic and political repressions across the globe. The contributors to this issue theorize the educational, epistemological, and socio-political connections of these modalities and articulate the ways that posthumanism’s displacement of the human may point toward a “non-humanist humanities” (to use a phrase from Spanos’s essay) and different, non-monological and monocultural modalities of being human counter to the overdetermination of the model of the homo economicus.  

The current crisis of the humanities in the universities that witness the skyrocketing of tuition, the reduction of humanities funding, the abolition of humanities programs, and the growing unemployment of new PhDs and humanities researchers across the globe symptomatically reveal how the homo economicus has become the hegemonic political form. Having attained its biopolitical status by a multiplicity of heterogeneous displacements of the human constituencies that have been misrepresented and classified as inferior to the model because of their racial, class, gender, religious and cultural differences, this biopolitical and economic mode of being human has superimposed its “vocational” approach in the university.  The concerns anchored in the humanities—philosophical, aesthetic, ethical—are considered costly, peripheral, even counterproductive to the model of the homo economics that requires the production of docile, employable citizens. While critics of education such as Delblanco and Mullen have framed this problem in terms of a clash between a “liberal arts” and a “vocational” approach to higher education, this elides the fact that in very important ways, the crisis is ontological, epistemological, postcolonial, and ecological. 

The public debate about the crisis of the humanities is framed in such a narrow way that the full historical and ontological scope of the crisis is masked. Indeed, what this crisis avoids at all costs is opening the larger question of the human’s relation to its “outside” or environment. The essays in this collection take up these displacements in a variety of ways to underscore the contingency of ways of thinking about human beings, or being human. All of the authors address the emergent posthumanism, and they even do so sympathetically. But they are also highly aware that the rise of posthumanism itself may be symptomatically linked to existential anxieties associated with the crisis of the humanities in universities today and, when push comes to shove, may turn out to be another way of re-centering the human, or at least particular forms of this human.  To put this bluntly, while most posthumanists are critical of how the “human” has been the center of global political and intellectual discourse for at least the duration of modernity, they talk about almost nothing else. Drawing our attention to how the human as we know it is the product of an “anthropological machine” that generates humanness over and against animality and machiniality is in indispensable contribution to our project, we seek to locate these generations in a wider set of institutional relations. 

We begin with a reflection upon the institutional context that immediately and materially connects posthumanism with the crisis of the humanities: the university and its contemporary divisions of labor. In 1993, William Spanos published The End of Education: Toward Posthumanism, a text that re-treated a hundred years of liberal arts curricula at Harvard by painstakingly diagnosing the struggles over the meaning of the “human” at stake in these curricular revisions. Since we editors believe the importance of Spanos’s book has increased considerably in the two intervening decades, we have asked him to revisit that book in today’s different—and largely, worse—global predicament. Arguing that we must begin to imagine and enact a non-humanist humanities, Spanos locates thee crisis of the humanities in the thick here-and-now-ness of the present. 


Welcome are papers that engage posthumanism as the ethical and political task to displace the representation the human from the comfort zone of the sovereign subject and engage the lived and discontinuous heterogeneities of being human across raced, classed, and differently abled bodies. Our task is to configure posthumanism as the transnational and transdisciplinary effort to write the human man is not, rather than to wheel a “posthuman” out of western humanism. Hence, we are especially interested in papers that take a posthumanist turn to speak to the ongoing crisis of the human symptomatically revealed by the co-occurrence of different modes of expropriation and dispossessions around the globe within the context of the relevant political, economic, ecological and cultural ruptures, transformations and even disasters. What is the theoretical and political valence of the posthumanist turn in view of the persistent haunting of the past of the history of dehumanization as materialized by the institutions of slavery and the discourses of racism in the present? How do posthumanist discourses respond to the co-implication of sovereignty and biopolitics? Is the posthumanist turn to the animal a subversion of the animal/human binary that unsettles the representational politics of man as a sovereign subject or a mere inversion of the terms that replicates this sovereignty in animal terms? Is the posthuman the academic effort to retrospectively and prospectively write/right the histories of the pariah, the refugee, the stateless, the unwanted constituency as a figure of human potentiality or a new academic agenda symptomatic of the crisis in the humanities and the university? 




December, 2014


In progress