Posthumanism Research Institute

The institute seeks to investigate the status and limits of the “human” in an era in which multiple crises — global warming, superintelligent computers, genetic engineering, and massive species extinction, to name but a few — mark the precariousness of exclusively human-centred practice and thought. Our transdisciplinary research unit, in collaboration with other likeminded centres, institutes, and scholars across the globe, is committed to the idea that humanity’s perseverance in the coming centuries will require collaboration with agents (animal, vegetable, fungal, viral, mineral, and digital) besides those formerly classified as “human.”

Our aim is to engage in research activities that do not remain confined to disciplinary boundaries. Specifically, we will explore the following research clusters and associated research questions:

  • Posthuman Ontology: How do we define the human, but also being itself in posthuman terms? What is the status of beings (human, nonhuman, organic, inanimate, etc.) and relations among them?  How can we think existence away from its mere appearance to human beings?
  • Posthuman Ethics and Politics: What happens to politics in the wake of the breakdown of long-held ideas about representation, the subject, progress, and reason? Who/what counts as a posthuman agent? How is ethical responsibility ascribed? Toward whom? How is the social world to be organized once we expand agency to nonhuman beings? Is such an expansion even possible?
  • Posthuman Aesthetics: How is the posthuman represented in a post-representational moment? What kinds of languages or images have evolved to address this problem? In what ways are new encounters conditioning new aesthetic models of sensory engagement, such as gaming and selfies? These digital aesthetic encounters should be coupled with new aesthetic assemblages of the human body, including composites produced through plastic surgery, organ transplants, and bioengineering.
  • Posthuman Science: How are humans and nonhumans (living and nonliving) entangled in the production of scientific knowledge?  How is the being of the human and nonhuman affected by technology? Is transhumanism and the experience of the cyborg a reinforcement of the anthropocentric point of view? What new possibilities are open for thinking the nonhuman via science?

The Executive Committee consists of:

  • Dr. Chelsea Birks (Sessional Instructor, UBC)
  • Dr. Christine Daigle, Director (Philosophy)
  • Dr. David Fancy (Dramatic Arts)
  • Dr. Russell Kilbourn (English and Film Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Dr. Trevor Norris (Education)

The Posthumanism Research Institute was approved by Senate on December 9, 2015.