More than human humanities
Here-now, 2021, the interference of human beings on planet earth is a recurrent subject when related to topics such as climate change, pollution, waste, plastic production, atomic industry, deforestation, geographical occupation, colonization, to name a few. Adding to these factors, we are currently facing a pandemic crisis (SARS-CoV-2). These elements are placed under the Western umbrella of capitalism, colonization and patriarchy, shaping the understanding of history, affecting patterns and behaviors among species, as well as within societies. However, its effects can potentially lead to extreme consequences, such as extinction.
Concerning the pandemic crisis, the columnist of ‘The Guardian’ Owen Jones wrote at the beginning of 2020 that “[w]hile coronavirus is understandably treated as an imminent danger, the climate crisis is still presented as an abstraction.”[i] He is concerned by the fact that, unlike a global pandemic, climate change consequences are not easy to visualize, it is easily mistaken as particular cases, and often projected as a future consequence. Nevertheless, even when wildfires spread across cities, cyclone damages are irreversible, or floods illustrate extreme weather changes, there is no political conversation about climate issues. He associates Pandemics with climate crisis too, arguing that the result of migration of species to higher altitudes, due to weather changes, potentially put them in contact with diseases for which they have little immunity.[ii]
Human-induced climatic, biological, and geological transformations of our planet are the elements that give the name of an era called the Anthropocene. However, Cecília Åsberg in the article ‘Feminist posthumanities in the Anthropocene: Forays into the postnatural’ argues that by assuming this definition we are, instead, putting apart human beings and nature, whereas for her, nature can no longer be disconnected from humans, culture, or technology.[iii] Åsberg defends a world where there is no position of mastery, there is “no ‘advanced’ civilization to master the wild Others, and no universal humanism to be practiced across the diversity of our species communalities: there are only sociable yet postnatural natures and power relations that matter for who gets to live, play, suffer, or die in the short or long run.”[iv]
According to Åsberg, the neutral approach of a ‘universal humanism’ erases differences between economic power among humans (which creates an idea of advanced and non or less-advanced civilizations), as well as it ignores the scales of environmental impact, and the relationship between technology, humans and other animals - result of a dichotomous separation of nature and culture.[v] Therefore, she defends the necessity of a ‘more-than-human humanities’, which in her words, entangles the “relationships with nature and the environment, with science and technology, and with vulnerable embodiments of both human and nonhuman kinds.”[vi]
On the other hand, Donna J. Haraway refers to an epoch which she calls ‘Chthulucene’. In her words, it is a “timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth.” [vii] Further than Åsberg's attempt to deconstruct the Anthropocene, Haraway claims for a name that can represent the “dynamic ongoing synchronic forces and powers of which people are a part.”[viii]
It is true that the humans’ interferences in nature have a global impact (with clear examples of undersea cables, oceanic plastic continents, seep pollutants into bodies of water, soil, and flesh), nevertheless Haraway highlights that its response-ability and consequences are often felt by minority groups, under a system of power differentials[ix], which she points out as a result of colonization and Eurocentric humanism.[x] These power differentials are often associated to binaries positions, which constructs a place for a ‘more’, or, ‘less’ human in relation to others (e.g. ‘more-than-human', ‘other-than-human’, ‘inhuman’, and ‘human-as-humus’,[xi] ‘human-machine’, ‘human-animal’, ‘human-physical world’[xii]).
Indeed, the consequences are the development of a subset of violent hierarchies, creating dichotomies such as the ‘wild-civilized’, ‘universal man – women’, ‘humans – natives, queers, animals, and other Earth Others at large’. [xiii] [xiv] Hence, there is no neutrality of humankind while it does matter, as Haraway once put, “which stories tell stories, which concepts think concepts…it matters which figures figure figures, which systems systematize systems.”[xv] And, for the sake of this research, adding to Haraway’s quote, it matters which extinction extinct extinctions. Haraway demands ‘response-ability’, the ability to respond, to keep here and now, in order to engage with unexpected others, yet, acknowledging an ongoing state of our contemporary society, to keep the trouble, to question social structures and its power relations.
[i] (Jones, 2020)
[ii] (Ibid., 2020)
[iii] (Åsberg, 2018, p. 186)
[iv] (Ibid., p. 197)
[v] (Ibid., p. 187)
[vi] (Ibid., p. 192)
[vii] (Haraway, 2016, p. 2)
[viii] (Ibid., p. 101)
[ix] (Åsberg, 2018, p. 186)
[x] (Ibid., p. 189)
[xi] (Haraway, 2016, p. 101)
[xii] (Åsberg, 2018, p. 190)
[xiii] (Ibid., p. 193)
[xiv] The scalar perspective is also well discussed by João Arriscado Nunes on his analysis of Boaventura de Sousa Santos, putting universality into conflict, understanding different forms of hegemonic globalization raised on an ‘interscalar’ perspective. Nunes argues that understanding the scalar relationship between distinct dynamics and forms of globalization, and identifying its process of hegemony, would allow us to create emancipatory alternatives. (Nunes, 2019, pp. 340-344)
[xv] (Haraway, 2016, p. 101)