Posthuman Ontologies and Folk Ecologies
This course explores “posthuman” ontologies, epistemologies, and ethics, taking into account of the influence of folkloristics in rethinking “the human.” Long before Friedrich Nietzsche declared that God was dead and Martin Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism, questions about the “ends” and “nature” of man ran arose in folktales, legends, and epic stories. With a special attention to voice and narrative, we will consider the lived consequences – be they kinetic, prosthetic synthetic, and even cosmetic – of pushing at the boundaries of “the human.” From initial categories for separating and delineating life forms along the lines of bios and zoe, form and function, mobility and immobility, this course will move through the making of species classifications, along with arguments for and against human exceptionalism. This approach incorporates nonhuman life as objects of analysis—animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses – taking seriously the idea that they have political lives and import. How might destabilizing the idea of “the human” (re)create similar divisions of who and what matters when it comes to race, gender and sexuality? What is the status of “subject rights” for plants, animals, rivers, mountains, that is, for “Mother Earth” as in the cases of Bolivia and Ecuador, when human rights so often do not “hold water,” so to speak? How do notions of mobility continue to inform philosophical and political strategies on “sequestering” people as well as carbon?
A short list of selected works range from: Aristotle, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Jacques Derrida to more current critiques by Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Povinelli, Rosi Braidotti, and Karen Barad, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo Kohn, Bruno Latour and more. We will place conceptual works in conversation with current ethnographies, events, and actual fleshy bodies to give grounding to the theory.