This panel will look at popular relational and networked re-conceptions of human beings and human societies (assemblage, affect, multi-species, cyborg, dividual, post-human, etc.) and discuss both their life-affirming and dehumanising potentials.
Today we are witnessing an increasing trend for networked and relational conceptions of the human being and human societies. These, largely self-proclaimed, post-modern theories generally seek to transcend the modernist notion of the atomized human subject and reconceive the human being as a networked and decentered being. Freed from the rigid divisions of modernism, such as the nature-culture or human-machine oppositions, this newly connected being is able to comingle and converge with various non-human phenomena and produce new formations that cannot be reduced to the singular human form. Here, the social world is opened up and sociality is extended out to non-humans, those who within modernity were pushed into the periphery and reduced to passive non-subjects. With participation and determining agency extended out to these non-humans, sociality becomes reconceived as a product of these human and non-human relations. At the same time, outside of the academy our social worlds are being radically transformed along networked and dividualistic lines. Here, the human being is increasingly finding herself/himself distributed through various post-human techno-assemblages that exist as integrated systems, largely outside of human agency. Though these hybrid situations and rhizomic reimaginings are celebrated for their emancipatory potentials, we are, at the same time, seeing new forms of social control emerging that utilise these distributive and non-hierarchical visions of human being. Importantly, none of these situations - the dehumanising or life-affirming potentials of these reimaginings - are predetermined. We see this ambivalence as lying at the heart of our current era. This panel will tackle this ambivalence head on.