Similarly to the term postanthropocentrism, the value of the concept of posthumanism for the design of narrative environments is that it invites a reconsideration of the relationships among the narrative, the environmental and the human aspects of the overall design, conceived as necessary aspects of being human. That is, the notion of posthumanism enables the narrative and the environmental dimensions of a narrative environment to be seen as integral parts of being human, as a living system and as mutual life support systems, in Sloterdijk’s terms, not as supplements or additions to an essentialist humanity.
Karen Barad (2007: 32) argues that her agential realist framework provides a posthumanist and performative account of techno-scientific and other natural-cultural practices. By using the term posthumanist, she seeks to bring to attention the crucial recognition that non-human actants play an important role in natural-cultural practices, including everyday social practices, scientific practices, as well as practices that do not include humans.
Beyond this, her use of posthumanism marks a refusal to take the distinction between ‘human’ and ‘non-human’ for granted, and a refusal to found analyses on this presumably fixed and inherent set of categories. Any such hardwiring precludes a genealogical investigation into the practices through which ‘humans’ and ‘nonhumans’ are delineated and differentially constituted.
A posthumanist and performative account, if it is to be of value, must also avoid cementing the nature-culture dichotomy into its foundations, thereby enabling a genealogical analysis of how these crucial distinctions are materially and discursively produced (Barad, 2007: 32).
Rossini (2006) explains that the term posthumanism first appeared on the academic stage in the late 1960s, primarily in literary departments of North America, as a part of postmodernist anti-humanist movements of thought and poststructuralist theory. Its philosophical roots, Rossini suggests, can be traced back to German philosophy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the form of the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.
After Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God in Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Gay Science, 1882), Heidegger’s Brief über den Humanismus (Letter on Humanism, 1947) in particular can be seen as the initiator of the posthumanism debate. This debate received a new and powerful impetus from the work of Michel Foucault, who proposed in the final sentence of his book Les Mots et les Choses (The Order of Things, 1966), that the figure of “man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.”
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning, Durham: Duke University Press.
LaGrandeur, K. (2014) What is the difference between posthumanism and transhumanism. Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies https://archive.ieet.org/articles/lagrandeur20140729.html [Accessed 17 June 2021]
Rossini, M. (2006). To the dogs: companion speciesism and the new feminist materialism. Kritikos, 3 (September). Available at: http://intertheory.org/rossini
Wolfe, C. (2010) What is posthumanism? Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.