New Brock University research institute studies “posthumanism”

It’s a complicated world. Climate change, genetic engineering, highly sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) and species extinction are some of the thorny issues our current generation is grappling with.

With these relatively new developments comes a need to re-examine what it means to be human, says Christine Daigle, Professor of Philosophy.

“We need to re-conceptualize core notions about our lives and our place in the world: how we relate to animals, plants and other beings and how we are all interconnected,” she says.

To that end, Daigle and colleagues across the University have created Brock’s newest transdisciplinary grouping, the Posthumanism Research Institute.

The question of what it means to be human goes way beyond the philosophical.

In the face of swift technological change, humans have put themselves on top of a hierarchy in which they “project themselves as masters of the universe,” says Terrance McDonald, PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Humanities and another Institute co-founder.

“Some view the world as something that can either enhance or prolong our existence,” he says. “How can I drill all this oil out of the world and use it to fuel machines? How can I take all this plant material and manipulate it to make the perfect tomato?”

But without understanding that we’re part of a diverse system of interrelations, this approach is “potentially destructive and negative,” and that could result in environmental and other damages beyond our imagination, he says.

McDonald, Daigle, and the other Institute co-founders – Stefan Dolgert, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Andrew Pendakis, Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature – have put out a call for membership.

The Posthumanism Research Institute has four research areas:

  • Posthuman Ontology: defining “human” beyond merely our physical characteristics; defining animals, plants and other beings and how we all relate to one another.
  • Posthuman Ethics and Politics: with increased awareness of these beings and new relationships, how do we operate in ethical and politically fair ways?
  • Posthuman Aesthetics: how do humans represent themselves through such media as “selfies” and gaming? How do we make ourselves more “beautiful” or functional through such means as plastic surgery, organ transplants and bioengineering?
  • Posthuman Science: how are humans and non-humans intertwined in the production of scientific knowledge? How does technology affect humans and non-humans?

“We know of some people at Brock who are interested in this kind of theoretical approach,” says Daigle. “But I think we will be surprised by those who come forward from all kinds of different areas within the University. We’re really excited to see where this Institute leads us.”

For more information or to express interest in the Posthumanism Research Institute, contact: Christine Daigle,, ext. 3316.

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