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Posthumous Life and Inhuman Ethics


bacteria virusThis 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 investigates 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 are several projects under this strand.



1. Inhuman Rites and Posthumous Life

a co-edited volume with Claire Colebrook (Penn State University), forthcoming at Columbia University Press, 2016.


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:
Isabelle Stengers, Cary Wolfe, Myra Hird, Luciana Parisi, Alastair Hunt, Akira Lippit, Nicole Anderson, Rebecca Hill, Jeff Nealon, Tim Morton, Susan Heckman, John Protevi, Karen Barad, Eugene Thacker, and Frida Beckman. 

2. Vital Ontologies

Monograph in progress 

3. International Critical Life Studies Network - European Critical Life Studies Network

There is a very real sense in which the problem of the posthuman should be the last question we pose for our times: given that the human species is, for the first time in its very brief history, beginning to imagine a future in which it ceases to exist. This network amasses scholars researching across the explosion of so-called critical ‘turns’ and ‘studies’ – the ontological turn, the affective turn, new materialism, anti-, in- and posthumanisms, process ontology, neovitalism, somatechnics, critical climate change, speculative realism, and women, gender, feminist, trans, queer, critical race, postcolonial, animal, technoscience, and anthropocene studies – but doing so under the guise that the concept of life itself is the issue. (applications in progress)

4. Life Matters: Affect, Sex, and Control

International Conference co-organized by Jami Weinstein and Frida Beckman
Hosted by Tema Genus, Linköping University (funded by the Swedish Research Council 2014)

5. Critical Life Studies book series (General editors: Jami Weinstein, Claire Colebrook, Myra Hird -- Columbia University Press)

The objectives of this series are bold and vital: to contribute to contemporary reflections on the basic terms and methods of critical inquiry, to do so by focusing on fundamental questions arising from interrogations of life itself, and ultimately to enrich our appreciation of the nature and ethico-political significance of life by providing a forum for the interdisciplinary exploration of questions and problems that have traditionally been overlooked in favor of a focus critiques of the human. The Critical Life Studies series endeavors to draw together a variety of inderdisciplinary theoretical approaches under a single banner in order to provide new directions for scholarship. With this series, not only will we name and define the emerging field of Critical Life Studies, but also we will propel it to the next level by soliciting cutting edge scholarship from exceptional authors, both new and established.

6. Vital Signs: Life Theory, and Ethics in the Age of Global Crisis

21st century global crises transform us into biological citizens with a universal right to protection of bare life and living body--where risk is assessed if life is at stake. Yet preserving basic biological life without tackling broader ethical questions is not enough. Further, the human and social sciences are at a crossroads--they are no longer equipped to respond to these threats, new modes of thought are needed. Accordingly, the project will investigate the ethics of life: Vital Ethics. 

(funded by The Swedish Research Council, 2015-2017)





Sidansvarig: jami.weinstein@liu.se
Senast uppdaterad: Wed Dec 02 11:21:10 CET 2015