What kind of ghost dance should we perform?
What does it mean to be “posthuman”?
Is posthumanism a myth? A master narrative of transformation? The latest avatar in man’s Promethean dream of stealing the fire from the gods?
From God, certainly.
We will consider the following questions in future contributions :
What happens to notions of agency, subjectivity and consciousness in the posthuman context? Where is agency located: in our subjectivity as information-processing entities? In our existence as beings connected at all times (see the upcoming era of the “Internet of things”) ?
It is impossible to deny contemporary forms of dependence on computer-based interfaces not only to communicate but simply to live. To exist. Yet, “our device-addicted moment”, in Daniel Mendelsohn’s words (NYRB June 4, 2015), increasingly feels like the latest version of a master-slave dialectic.
Mark Hunyadi depicts the political consequences of posthumanism, showing how such an engineering and technological project takes place at the expanse of a humanistic and educational project (see for example his article titled “Le défi politique du posthumanisme” in Etudes March 2015, p. 55-64). Our “ways of life”, in Hunyadi’s image, have gone out of control. The world seems to be propelled on its own, devoid of thinking and/or reflecting, characterized by an overall abdication of human will and agency.
Rosi Braidotti’s query in her 2013 book The Posthuman proposes another way to consider the issue of agency and subjectivity: “What understandings of contemporary subjectivity and subject-formation are enabled by a post-anthropocentric approach? What comes after the anthropocentric subject?” (58).
N. Katherine Hayles’s question at the end of her ground-breaking 1999 book How We Became Posthuman – “What kind of posthumans will we be? –resonates with some urgency today. As Hayles explains, “The narratives of Artificial Life reveal that if we acknowledge that the observer must be part of the picture, bodies can never be made of information alone, no matter which side of the computer screen they are on” (246).
–THE BODY IN THE POSTHUMAN CONDITION
Some scholars have focused on the decaying of the body generated by the virtual engagement (overengagement) of the mind. Nidesh Lawtoo, in a recent article titled “Avatar Simulation in 3 Ts : Techne, Trance, Transformation”
published in the March 2015 issue of Science Fiction Studies, describes what he calls the “virtual exodus” and warns against mistaking “the fable” for “the true world” (148).
In Nomadic Subjects, Rosi Braidotti notes the contradiction between current fantasies of dematerialization and the actuality of the weight of stranded (migrant) bodies. She describes the schizophrenic characteristic of advanced capitalism. We could add: the schizophrenic nature of our posthuman condition.
As Hayles puts it, “What, finally, are we to make of the posthuman?”. She suggests that “the prospect of becoming posthuman both evokes terror and excites pleasure” (283).
Sixteen years later, the question stands (open-ended) and continues to trigger “terror” and “pleasure”. Perhaps, also: “hubris” and “power”. Faulkner might have added: “doom” and “gloom”.
To be continued…