The Castle in Ruins: Nonhuman Testimonies

I’ve just submitted the following proposal for After Queer, After Humanism – Rice University English Symposium (Sept. 14-15, 2012). From the call: “Queer & Humanism are two categories that have shown their limits in recent critical discussions. This symposium meets to consider the relation between humanism and the theorization of sexuality, gender, and sex. It provides a forum to debate the connection between posthumanism and growing dissatisfaction with “queer” as a critical concept.”

From Robert Crumb’s & David Zane
Mairowitz’s Kafka – page 58.

The discourse on the nonhuman is formed within posthumanism. And yet, I argue, it sets up an alterity to the latter due to the fundamental switch of perspective. Nonhuman is the place where Kafka’s fictional world starts writing itself. This is the place where a human being, deprived of meanings and removed from the center of the universe, discovers own nonhumanity. Kafka’s“alien phenomenology” explores the margins of humanity to offer an eerie testimony of “what it’s like to be a thing.” Recently, such perspective has attracted a lot of attention, especially, with object oriented ontology, speculative realism, new materialism, and other emerging movements in contemporary philosophy associated with the “nonhuman turn.” Without an ambition of bringing Kafka’s unfinished project to a completion, these philosophers revisit and explore the same unsettling realm where the subject is being stripped of humanity, in order to challenge the fictions and fixation of humanism.

Drawing on the logic of Lacan’s sexuation graph, I will demonstrate that “the human” occupies the position of “Man,” and “nonhuman” the position of “Womanwith a privileged symptomatic status (“Woman is a symptom of man”). The price for accepting this symptom within the world of Kafka is rather high: his prose stops exhausted by confusion and fear in the middle of a sentence and K. does not reach his destination. Yet, it might be worth the risk today, when we have suddenly found ourselves on the ruins of what used to be the castle of humanism. 


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