It’s been almost a year since I’ve ventured out to a museum exhibition, and more than two since I had the chance to catch one in London. But with delayed research projects on salvage and upcycling kicking off again, and a small but very welcome early career grant from the University of Southampton’s Humanities Faculty, February seemed like the time to take another trip to the Design Museum to visit its exhibition on ‘Waste Age: What can design do?’
Readers of this blog are warmly encouraged to consider submitting an abstract to this edited collection, which is seeking chapters by artists and makers, as well as scholars of all backgrounds. I have worked with both the collection editors (Matthew Hayler and Christine Daigle) and the series editors (Matthew Hayler and Danielle Sands) in relation to my work with the Critical Posthumanism Network, and highly recommend the experience!
“It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas.” This claim by Marilyn Strathem is quoted and given many variations in Donna Haraway’s Staying With the Trouble (2016). Ideas are assemblages that emerge from the various entanglements in which we exist and that constantly shape what we are and can be. Ideas spring from the dynamic material engagments humans have with one another and with the other beings and objects in our worlds. Therefore, our manner of engaging, the very practices we adopt to think, feel, experience, and theorise our entanglements, matter a great deal. As Karen Barad famously posited, “knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing but rather from a direct material engagement with the world” (2007, 49): the ways in which we engage determine our knowing.
Critical posthumanism seeks to challenge contemporary anthropocentric and Humanist worldviews, and to establish new ways to conceive of ourselves and the environments and relationships in which we arc enmeshed. It has become clear that new thoughts and actions are needed as posthumanism demonstrates its usefulness. For this to be possible, we need to engage in thinking differently, shaking off old habits, embracing new methodologies, and rediscovering, or listening for the first time, to what has come before, or is going on right now, in other disciplines, cultures, and the actions of humans and non-humans. Putting posthumanism into practice, in short, demands exploratory, attentive, and speculative ventures that may, as yet, be unconventional in an academic setting, but generate new ideas and ways of acting. Posthumanism in practice also seeks to create ways and objects of knowing co-produced across the arts, humanities, and sciences, across sectors, disciplines, practitioners, and species. It asks: how is your practice, whatever your field of activity, transformed when enlivened by posthumanist ideas?