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Pramod K. Nayar

ISBN: 978-0-745-66241-1 November 2013 Polity 208 Pages


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This timely book examines the rise of posthumanism as both a material condition and a developing philosophical-ethical project in the age of cloning, gene engineering, organ transplants and implants.

Nayar first maps the political and philosophical critiques of traditional humanism, revealing its exclusionary and ‘speciesist’ politics that position the human as a distinctive and dominant life form. He then contextualizes the posthumanist vision which, drawing upon biomedical, engineering and techno-scientific studies, concludes that human consciousness is shaped by its co-evolution with other life forms, and our human form inescapably influenced by tools and technology. Finally the book explores posthumanism’s roots in disability studies, animal studies and bioethics to underscore the constructed nature of ‘normalcy’ in bodies, and the singularity of species and life itself.

As this book powerfully demonstrates, posthumanism marks a radical reassessment of the human as constituted by symbiosis, assimilation, difference and dependence upon and with other species. Mapping the terrain of these far-reaching debates, Posthumanism will be an invaluable companion to students of cultural studies and modern and contemporary literature.
1. Revisiting the Human: Critical Humanisms
Terms and Definitions
Critical Humanisms and the Origins of Posthumanism
2. Consciousness, Biology and the Necessity of Alterity
Cognition, Consciousness and Autopoiesis
Biology, Systems and Systems Biology
Dealing with/in Alterity
3. The Body, Reformatted
Biomedia, the Body Mathematized and Postvital Life
Other/ing Bodies
The Body as Congeries, Assemblage and Interface
4. Absolute Monstrosities: The ‘Question of the Animal’
Monster Theory: Cultures of Otherness
Animal Nature, Human Nature
The Humanimal
5. Life Itself: The View from Disability Studies and Bioethics
Disability Studies and the Norms of the ‘Human’
Bioethics and Personhood
6. Posthuman Visions: Toward Companion Species
Posthuman Biology
Posthumanist Biology
Companion Species
Conclusion: Posthumanism as Species Cosmopolitanism
"Nayar has produced a clear and comprehensive survey and analysis of contemporary posthuman thought. He avoids the excessive reliance on jargon that often mars writing on this topic, and treats the competing views he discusses with an even and incisive hand."
Robert Pepperell, Cardiff School of Art & Design

"Posthumanism is a coming-of-age book for studies of science, technology, and culture. It brings together the most crucial considerations of current debates about the status of the posthuman and, in so doing, beautifully weaves together their political history and current relevance when thinking through this complex terrain."
Andy Miah, University of the West of Scotland

"Nayar proves an effective and expert guide to critical posthumanist perspectives on such topics as gender relations, post-colonialism and disability. […] The final chapter enters a plea for a 'species cosmopolitanism' in which humans abandon their efforts to identify non-humans in opposition to and subjection to humans but learn to respect the multiple affiliations with non-human entities such as technologies and non-human life forms."
Philosophical Quarterly

"Nayar concludes his exploration of the posthuman by stating that '[o]nce we accept that we are difference, perhaps we will cease to be worried about difference as Other' (p. 156). This statement draws to a close his wide ranging study of critical posthumanism and sounds a positive note for those who might fear difference without recognising the fact that, in the twenty-first century, we are all, in effect, Other." 
Journal of Gender Studies

  • State-of-the-art overview of the complex terrain of posthumanist theorizing in literary studies and cultural studies
  • Explores broad interdisciplinary contributions to posthumanism, from philosophy, bioethics, biomedical sciences, disability and animal studies
  • The first book-length treatment of this cutting-edge area pitched for undergraduate student readers
  • Serves both as a survey of this emergent field and an intervention within it