Isolation Reading for the Week of April 27

Every week we’re bringing you some great books chosen by our staff for your work-from-home reading. This week, Rebecca Duce, one of our amazing sales reps, has chosen Posthumanism as her staff pick for week 4. Enjoy!

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You may obtain a foggy understanding of posthumanism from a quick web search and then think: “Huh?”

Don’t worry. You are not alone. Consider taking a moment to loll in that perplexity.

If you are still curious, read Alan and Josephine Smart’s Posthumanism from UTP’s Anthropological Insights Series.

Posthumanism is borderless, moderately overwhelming, and simply fascinating. It is a growing method of inquiry that explores how “becoming human involved our intimate interaction with more-than-human-elements.” More-than-human (or non-human) can mean many things: tools, the environment, microorganisms, companion animals, or electronic devices.

Years ago I led a grad seminar on this subject. I was not confident in my research or my understanding of the field. Admittedly, I was a little hung up on what I thought was just another convoluted concept in digital humanities. But then I discovered how posthumanism flips the script on traditional scholarship and dismantles our everyday assumptions. Episodes of Black Mirror suddenly became more interesting, and being human meant more (tangible or not).

I wish I had Alan and Josephine Smart’s book in grad school. My presentation would have been more coherent and I would have shed all those weighty misconceptions about human vs. other sooner. Smart and Smart do an exceptional job of explaining posthumanism and how its methods are relevant today. This is not just a book for anthropologists or science fiction fans. It is a clear introduction to a complex topic that connects zoonotic diseases, cyborgs, microbiomes, your favourite app, and the ever-prevalent Anthropocene (all under 120 pages!).

During nationwide lockdowns and self-isolation, it’s easy to see how our everyday lives are dependent on others. Not only are we keenly aware of our human neighbours, we are entangled in a network of non-humans. Think of all the technology that has helped and sometimes hindered us during isolation. Think of the immense economic systems that rely on everyday people and their actions. Think of the art and artists providing joy to so many. Can you really attempt a definition of “human” without considering the vast connections among all of these elements?

Posthumanism is truly compelling and can be comforting. It does not belong to one discipline. Anyone can explore it and everyone is already living it.

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Click here to find out more about Posthumanism.