Today N. Katherine Hayles gave a talk as part of a speaker series on Science Fiction at the University of California, Riverside. It was entitled “Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End and the Macropolitics of Global Spatialization.”
She set up a productive binary between the conservative transhumanist tendencies in theory and art and more progressive posthumanist tendencies. As she argued, transhumanism seeks to extrapolate the liberla humanist subject while posthumanism deconstructs it.
And while Hayles, continuing her project in How We Became Posthuman, pointed out the pitfalls of posthumanism she still, even while claiming to be ambivalent, seemed to favor the deconstructive approach of posthumanists.
However, I couldn’t help but be far more supicious. Posthumanism, while deconstructing the humanist subject, reinforces the historical validity or existence, at some point, of the “human” through its resistance. Simply said: by moving beyond the human it manufactures the very thing it leaves behind. And as we know there were many subjects not allowed access to that label and many who continue to be dehumanized or relegated to a category of bare life. Given these circumstances it is not only foolish but dangerous to make a push into a post mode.
Why not involve a third position into this grid – antihumanism? Antihumanism has a radical politics that seeks to expose these antagonisms and destroy any stable notion of a “human.” It also more effectively describes the blending of animal/man, organic/inorganic, tranformative subjectivities (becomings), and the always already prosthetic presence that are being more clearly brought into relief in the current historical cultural moment.