Unlearning to be human?

The emergence of postanthropocentrism as a new conceptual and interdisciplinary paradigm within the last decade of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century is, by now, a well-established major narrative within cultural theory and cultural studies. Posthumanism, actor-network-theory, object-oriented-ontology, speculative realism, new feminist materialism, new systems theory/neocybernetics – all of these new theoretical formations are questioning the centrality of the human, and are focusing instead on human-nonhuman-environment interaction from a media, technical and biological point of view. These new stances all stress the entanglement of a multiplicity of actors and processes and are ethically and ecologically motivated and constitute a concerted effort to rethink what it means to be human in the Anthropocene (i.e. when the effects of human activity, industrialization and technological progress on climate change and the natural habitats are seen as irreversible and constitute a major threat to the survival of life on the planet).

To have a future, it seems that “we” are having to unlearn everything “we” know and believe about humans, human nature and humanity. This unlearning process, if it is not to be a mere dehumanising self-annihilation however, will have to be carefully and critically thought through. Unlearning to be human, in fact, amounts to nothing less than the deconstruction of humanism in all its guises.

This longterm project of a critical “postanthropology” focuses on four main areas:

  • Politics/ethics “without” the human
  • Posthumanism and education
  • Is there a posthuman(ist) aesthetics?
  • “Yearning” for the human – posthumanism and desire.

Some aspects have already been published:

  • “Posthumanistische Bildung?”, Jahrbuch für Pädagogik 2014 (special issue on Menschenverbesserung und Transhumanismus), Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014: 267-81; pre-publication version available here. English version to be published in the International Handbook of Philosophy of Education, eds. Paul Smeyers et al., Springer, 2016 (forthcoming).
  • Hamlet and posthumanist politics”.