Of course, our free blog week is about an area that really bothers me. I keep on changing this post around, but I figure that I just need to stop and post it.
I am distrustful of post-humanism/post human rhetorics. Perhaps, my wariness stems from how “things” are centralized. I think we are having enough problems already trying to get some people to admit that other people are not “things.”
The field (as I understand it) consists of four areas: gender and queer body theory, animal studies, actor-network theory, and “thing” theory. The gender and queer studies field of post-human studies hinges on the positioning of the body at an intersection with history or the continuance of history, sexuality, and gender: Jack Halberstam, Donna Haraway, and L. Katherine Hayles (she is positioned as a Postmodernist, but her writings about Turing and his artificial intelligence test fall under this category). Animal studies attempt to de-centralize humans. Derrida published on this idea toward the end of his life. Also, Haraway has published on “companion animals” and how humans impose their worldview upon animal research—just watch a David Attenborough narrated documentary and note the number of human-oriented terms applied to the animals. The elements of actor-network theory places humans in the context of machine systems, but I don’t really see the difference between general ANT. Finally, the last area is “thing” theory or Object Oriented Ontology—where objects’ interactions with the world have value and experiences beyond the values and experiences that humans label an object as having.
Okay. So, basically, what does all of this have to do with the composition classroom? As usual, I turn to my experiences with basic writers. Since this group is a population of university students that generally have been de-centralized, I am not sure that continuing to de-privilege their experiences will help them navigate their college careers. Much of the later theories seem to want to keep on pushing past current boundaries and definitions of what has value or what is an experience. However, many of the BW students feel devalued from the fact that they have to experience “remedial” writing courses. The later versions of post human/post humanism that remove human experiences also remove uncomfortable questions about the hierarchical paradigms that make up the “lived” experience. I don’t see why we should worry so much about the ghost in the machine when we are still dealing with other eidolons: specters haunting Europe and angels in the home.
Some random quotes:
“The posthuman view privileges informational pattern over material instantiation, so that embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life”
Hayles N. Katherine (2008-05-15). How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (p. 2). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
“Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology (“OOO” for short) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally—plumbers, DVD players, cotton, bonobos, sandstone, and Harry Potter, for example. In particular, OOO rejects the claims that human experience rests at the center of philosophy, and that things can be understood by how they appear to us. In place of science alone, OOO uses speculation to characterize how objects exist and interact.” Ian Bogost’s (Current)definition