So, after hearing so much about this book and having handed in almost all of the essay based elements of my PGCE work, I decided to tackle the Posthuman by Rosi Braidotti. This is part of my new “Go Big” strategy, inspired by the current BBC drama Undercover. This is the thinking about thinking about going big stage of the plan!
On finishing the introductory chapter, my (very rough) thoughts are:
1. Defining ourselves by what we aren’t is quite common – it is how humans understand or is it how white Europeans define themselves? In teaching, we sometimes use exceptions to help understand the rule, again is this because we naturally understand this way or is understanding socially constructed?
2. Being analytical is about breaking things down into components in order to understand them – categories, schemas and boxes. Do we need to rethink what we mean by analytical?
3. The law of unintended consequences – does this de-priviledging of the human and this attack on the social construct of human as a category lead us to further individualism where we have no common bonds or responsibility to one another?
4. Humanism as a term would not normally be used in everyday speak the way Braidotti uses it.
5. Humanism decentred God/religion as master of the universe? Who do we replace it with? Or is that the point?
6. We don’t want to drift into meaningless postmodernism.
7. Othering is about heuristics in my opinion – can we deal with complexity without some element of othering?
8. Why is our identity so wrapped up in othering? Why do we need to define ourselves against what we’re not? British values is a good example of this. The positively expressed values are weak, wooly and not specifically British. Rule of law etc. They seem to have led from a conversation that went “well we don’t believe in x” rather than a clear articulation of what we do believe. Is that the result of plurality? Plurality, not diversity.
9. As student of both sociology and anthropology, it’s interesting that heuristic ways of thinking develop alongside the discovery of knowledge/new lands and what sociologists would term “complex societies” – but also alongside European/Enlightenment domination of the world. The very notion of complex and simple societies is in itself a product of imperialist (and by extension Enlightenment/Eurocentric) binary thinking. As an undergrad student trying to meet the demands of four different disciplines each with its own language and paradigm, I maintained this dinstinction very rigidly in my head. Probably for my own sanity rather than attaching any truth to it! Though it seemed a reasonable distinction to make if you are comparing everything against a remote hill tribe in Malaysia who remain fairly homogenous, seemingly unaffected by global reach. But this is both an extreme and problematic example: no one who has studied anthropology would ever claim there was anything “simple” in the commonly used sense of the word about any society. Plus, many would be at pains to point out that “complex” in this case is used as an analytic category, rather than a value judgment. In reality though, would you rather be described as “complex” or “simple”? It is interesting that “complex” displaced the word “modern” so people have been thinking about making the terminology more sensitive, but not the act of distinguishing itself. India probably provides the most obvious challenge to the idea of current, Western, industrial societies as “complex” with its long history of genuine complexity.
10. We all employ binary disinctions: Braidotti talks about centres and margins. Obviously she is not suggesting for a moment that everything is either centre or margin and never the twain shall meet. And obviously what is centre in one context can be margin in another. But it can be a useful conceptual tool, as long as we understand that’s what it is.
11. This feels like trying to understand everything in the whole world now.
Rosi Braidotti (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity.
Please note, I am fed up with academic referencing (the irony!) reducing us to our surnames. Our first names matter to us; they are part of our identity.