Human after Man (2018/19)


In the face of the enormous challenges of the present moment, with its ecological and social crises, the Western ideal of white man as the universal representative of humanity has repeatedly been subject to critique. It is not only the transdisciplinary discourses of posthumanism and post-anthropocentrism that attack this standardization of being human and deconstruct it together with the assumption that man must assume a uniquely elevated position among the earth’s diverse life forms. The arts, too, for which the image of the human has always been a matter of genuine interest, work intensively towards the abolition of long-established norms of being human, and project alternative forms of the humanity in radical and sometimes highly speculative ways.


With its seventh yearly theme, the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies turns to the question of how the notion of the human is currently being reconfigured in the arts and sciences. The title of the yearly theme refers to Sylvia Wynter’s formulation, “Towards Human after Man.” For several decades, the Jamaican author and philosopher has advocated a perspective rooted in the marginalized and liminal zones of the West’s dominant standardized and racialized configuration of the human, in order to think being human differently. In parallel with a number of other Black Studies theorists, she proposes a decolonial conception of the human, which often remains underexposed in contemporary posthumanist discourses. "Human after Man" makes a decisive attempt to put this decolonial perspective into contact with approaches that see the most pressing impetus for a redefinition of humanity above all in the phenomena of climate change, mass extinction (Ursula K. Heise), or in the ever-tighter fusion of the living and the technical, together with their associated mechanisms of capitalist exploitation (Rosi Braidotti). The lecture series adopts a critical distance from super- or transhumanism and its idea of the technical improvement or expansion of the human. Here, the “human” does not appear only as a biological, but rather as a multifaceted being, the forms of which are also shaped by diverse social and mythological-fictive narratives.