Are you interested in critical posthumanism and the creative arts? Did you see images from our zine-making workshop and wish you’d been able to join us? Now is your chance! Our next Creative Posthumanism workshop will be on Wednesday, 1st June 2022, from 2-4pm at Winchester School of Art. This week, our theme (and the focus of our collaborative making project) is ‘Scrapbooking the Wasteland—A Posthumanist Terror Management Theory Toolkit’.
Last week we ran a pilot event in the Creative Posthumanism project, specially for the postgraduate research (PhD) community at Winchester School of Art (WSA). The event was facilitated by me and Noriko Suzuki-Bosco, an artist, artist’s book-maker, and fellow bibliophile who has also worked with me on several previous zine workshops. The theme? ‘Being Human under Technocapitalism’.
The plan was to create something collaboratively, using the creative process to think differently about topics we might historically have only considered academically or through critical writing. The exact format of the zine was decided on the day, once we could see how many participants we had and could discuss what everyone felt comfortable with. In the end we had a nice small group of around six people, which meant we could all speak to each other and work together around the same table.
In the first part of the session we introduced participants to the process of making an individual zine, including the work of folding and cutting the paper and the types of things you might have as topics or content. We also introduced them to the materials we had assembled: magazines, patches, bits of washi tape, stickers, and other decorations.
This summer I’ll be launching a series of pilot workshops as part of the Creative Posthumanism project, including sessions on zine-making, scrapbooking, and performance art. More news on these sessions will follow soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share a little bit about the rationale behind the project. Humanistic principles underpin key discourses in biology (we are individual entities), psychology (we are individual actors), economics (we are rational actors), law (we are responsible for our actions), art (we are individual authors of human stories), AI research (the goal is to produce computers which “think like us”), medicine (there is a clear idea of a healthy human which we should aim to remain in line with), and ecology (the earth should be optimised for human habitation). In many of these areas, however, the centrality of such thought is being questioned. Critical posthumanism is an academic field of inquiry that deconstructs the human (and humanitarian) impacts of these liberal humanist systems and institutions, particularly in the ways that they have been accelerated and exacerbated by advancing technologies.
How might posthumanist approaches illuminate current issues in bioethics? This is the central question asked throughout Bioethics and the Posthumanities, a new edited collection published with Routledge Focus. The book comes out of a series of workshops for researchers and policymakers that took place back in 2019.
‘Is remix a monster, and digital humanities the means through which it is destined to bring down the old-fashioned, exclusionary, and hierarchical modes of humanities past?’
This is the question I ask at the beginning of my chapter in the new Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities, edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, and xtine burrough, and the answer is not as simple as it may seem. There are lots of great chapters in the book, divided into sections on ‘Epistemology and Theory’, ‘Accessibility and Pedagogy’, ‘Modularity and Ontology’, and ‘Aurality and Visuality’. My own chapter, on ‘Remix, the Digital Humanities, and the Limits of Transgression’, uses the metaphor of Frankenstein and his creature to suggest that the transgressive potential of remix and the digital humanities lies less in the form of these disciplines, and more in their practice: How they are allowed to intersect, evolve, and escape their traditional (anti)humanist foundations.
This week my author copy of Transmedia Cultures arrived! It contains a series of “fresh” approaches to transmedia, “revealing the ever-increasing levels of entanglement they have within our real lives and with those we experience in other more imaginative or creative ones, bringing into focus exactly what is at stake in the «worlds» we choose to call our own”
The University of Southampton has just launched a new series of Ask The Expert videos, called ‘Tea Talks’. These 20-to-30-minute videos feature Belinda Milestone, Teaching Fellow in the university’s Academic Centre for International Studies, as she interviews staff from WSA about their lives, careers, teaching, areas of specialism—and, of course, favourite cups of tea.
In the most recent episode I talk to Belinda about remix, monsters, and the posthuman over a cup of Chinese white tea:
You can watch the entire first season (six interviews) on YouTube. It includes discussions about festivals, advertising, luxury, fashion and sustainability, and more. Season two will hopefully be on the way very soon.
The Human Worlds Festival is the University of Southampton’s annual celebration of Humanities. This year, we explored Sylvia Wynter’s proposition that “humanness is no longer a noun. Being human is a praxis”. Together we explored different ways of examining and practicing our humanness. We also shared examples of how this praxis can change the world for the better.
From the ‘Being Human as Praxis’ programme of events, you can find links to the recordings for ‘Posthuman Laughter’, ‘Being Human from Aristotle to Deleuze’, and the ‘Computer Generated Novel Workshop’ below. The computer-generated novel produced through this workshop has also now been submitted to NaNoGenMo (link here; novel and code available for download at the bottom of the page). The novel is appropriately entitled The Year 2020: Now Oil the Joints of My Hand at That Moment That There is No Love.
Last but not least, you can find a recording of the ‘Speculative Futures of the Arts and Humanities, in Practice’ Roundtable as part of Hands-on-Humanities Day.
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?