quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2015

Emancipation in Posthuman Times

by Erika Cudworth

Human/animal studies has developed as a cross-disciplinary endeavour in various ways. In my own field, sociological and political animal studies, interventions have often been informed by a critical perspective, in particular feminism but also Marxism, anarchism and critical race studies; although there have also been less critical routes taken using approaches such as actor-network theory and symbolic interactionism. All these initiatives have made important contributions to the problematizing academic and practical political legacies of human-exclusivity, although it is critical and feminist animal studies which will be endorsed here. Despite such approaches questioning contemporary social formations of species and suggesting a need for change, however, I will suggest that the link between analysis and political strategy is uncertain.
While those working in critical traditions may appear to have a more certain political agenda, an analysis of 'how things are' does not always lead to a coherent position on 'what is to be done' in terms of social movement agendas or other forms of intervention. A focus of this paper is the political concepts deployed in more radical forms of advocacy such as rights, liberation and emancipation, which are problematic when applied beyond the human. Even conceptions less entrenched in the liberal humanist tradition such as ‘care’ are difficult to operationalize. My own approach to human relations with non-human animals – developing an intersectional theory of species domination is also outlined – and it is noted that while this approach has had much to say about the structures of oppressive relations in which both human and non-human animals are caught, it has had incredibly little to say about how we might move beyond domination.
In the context of intersectionalised approaches to the question of the animal – both human and non-human - what might an emancipatory future look like? This question is the focus of my current project, together with my colleague Steve Hobden. The last section of this paper will present some of the ideas we are developing for a ‘Posthumanist Manifesto’. Here we suggest the need for a ‘creaturely politics’ which stresses the embodied nature of ‘the human’ and our embedding in vital networks with other beings and things. Herein, there is a rather different politics of ‘wellbeing’ that is inclusive of living non-human being. This does not only imply a critical perspective on the human centred organisation of our economic organisation, our social practices and our ways of doing politics, it also requires a shrinking of the idea of ‘the human’ as we know it, and a transition to a more embodied ‘animal’ condition in which we humans share vulnerabilities with other creatures and living things. Second, we are developing my idea of ‘posthuman communities’ in more explicitly political directions. Our critique of human-centred and human-defined concepts of the political leads us away from the notion of polity and towards a notion of community. Posthuman community embodies a tolerance of diversity and difference, while also being attuned to an agenda set by a radical politics of intersectionality which resits the instrumentalisation, enslavement and destruction of both human and non-human being.

Erika Cudworth is Reader in Political Sociology and Critical Animal Studies at the University of East London, UK. Her research interests include complexity theory, gender, and human relations with non-human animals, particularly theoretical and political challenges to exclusive humanism. She is author of Environment and Society (Routledge, 2003), Developing Ecofeminist Theory: the Complexity of Difference (Palgrave, 2005) and Social Lives with Other Animals: Tales of Sex, Death and Love (Palgrave, 2011); co-author of The Modern State: Theories and Ideologies (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) and Posthuman International Relations: Complexity, Ecologism and International Politics (Zed, 2011); and co-editor of Technology, Society and Inequality: New Horizons and Contested Futures (Peter Lang, 2013) and Anarchism and Animal Liberation: Essays on Complementary Elements of Total Liberation (McFarland, 2015). Erika’s current projects are on animal companions and the messy nature of multi-species life. In addition, with her UEL colleague and long term writing partner Steve Hobden, she is working on the more-than-human way of war and on posthuman emancipation.

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