Posthuman

The word posthuman can engender anxiety. Like all posts-, the prefix suggests transition, rejection and moving beyond what came before. The posthuman, then, implies an existence after the human—a prospect evolutionary biology teaches any species to eschew. That the OED traces its first use (as the hyphenated post-human) to a discussion of eugenics in Maurice Parmalee’s Poverty and Social Progress (1916) does little to mitigate such disquiet. The dictionary’s secondary descriptors are hardly more buoyant: “abstract, impersonal, mechanistic, dispassionate” (OED). In the face of such a dismal ontological state that we, as the humans in question, are taught to resist, is it any wonder that we might be skeptical of a term that seems distancing at best and outright apocalyptic at worst?

Yet posthuman is tied to an important ism that might be said to shift the emphasis away from these detached, futuristic definitions and toward …

This essay may be found on page 154 of the printed volume.

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