Derrida and Wolfe

Derrida justifies his stance on violence towards animals when he says: “to understand that although animals cannot be placed under concepts like citizen, consciousness linked with speech, subject, etc., they are not for all that without a ‘right.’ It’s the very concept of right that will have to be ‘rethought'” (Derrida 74). I believe what he means is that “rights” are a human conception so even if humane equalizing of animals is somehow universally legalized and practiced, there’s still no escaping human-laced justifications and notions. I’m just now recognizing that the word humane, a word we commonly associate with the treatment of animals and prisoners whom we treat like animals, has the root word of “human” in it. Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word even includes the phrase “humanistic culture!” Now I can’t stop thinking about this word and I am realizing that to treat someone humanely is “good,” but to treat someone like an animal is “bad,” and I think this is precisely the problem that Derrida is trying to shed light on.

Cary Wolfe quotes Cora Kaplan when she explains the similarly problematic humanistic treatment of people with disabilities: “‘human anomaly . . . continues to trouble the rhetoric of liberal individualism, testing both its ethics of tolerance and its fetishization of autonomy and agency as conditions of human status and civic participation” (138). As I shared in class, even something as little as changing autistic from an adjective that infers an entire being to something like with autism which only suggests a piece of a larger identity, can be rhetorically powerful and change the way how society views and treats people with disabilities and even animals. Taking an example from above, I would suggest that in a perfect posthuman society, when talking about the treatment of an animal, the term animally would replace humanely and humanely would only be used to describe the treatment of humans. I could take it one step further and also suggest that in the perfect posthuman society, that the practice of bestowing human names (or really any sort of name at all) upon animals would cease to exist since this is an act of forcing a human practice onto a nonhuman entity that wouldn’t otherwise recieve a vocalized label. But thus comes the question of “but where would we go from there?” that I have come to many times throughout this semester, because it’s not like humans are going to/would be able to incorporate animal sounds into vocalized communication–the posthuman condition, I’ve come to realize, is cyclical in nature and hopeless to define.

Derrida, Jacques, and Elisabeth Roudinesco. “Violence Against Animals.” For What Tomorrow…A Dialogue. Trans. Jeff Fort. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004. 62-76

Wolfe, Cary. “Animal Studies, Disability Studies, and Who Comes after the Subject.” What is posthumanism? Minneapolis, MN: University of Minn. Press, 2010. 127-142


Posthuman scholars such as Graham and Pepperell have advocated for a separation of mind and body and the ability for a transcendental consciousness. Braidotti suggests however that the true posthuman focus should not be about deciphering and analyzing the relationships between minds and bodies, but instead concentrating on our relationships with culture and nature. She explains that “Once the centrality of anthropos is challenged, a number of boundaries between ‘Man’ and his others go tumbling down, in a cascade effect that opens up unexpected perspectives” (Braidotti 65-6). Braidotti argues that progressive capitalism profits from the commodification of a body or a life and instead proposes an emphasis on all matters in the world as equal entities, rather than a focal point on an individual or species. One such matter is the Earth.

Recently in a waiting room, I came across a lifestyle magazine that displayed a cliché “save the planet” theme for that particular month. One section quoted notable stand-outs of earth-saving movements. I don’t remember a single piece of advice or eco-friendly clothing that the issue advertised, besides one of the aforementioned quotes from an environmental scholar, I believe. She essentially said that, rhetorically, “save the planet” aren’t as successful as they should be and instead should be rebranded as “save the humans” campaigns–she maintained that the Earth is going to be just fine, it’s us, human beings, that need to be worried. I think this connects to Braidotti’s argument.

Humans are selfish and Braidotti highlights just how much we elevate and center ourselves within our existence amongst other living things. In my interpretation, Braidotti isn’t exactly calling for an elimination of distinctions and boundaries but more of a blurring to expose power dynamics. Perhaps if ‘saving the planet’ becomes blurred with ‘saving the humans,’ we would witness a stronger response from mankind, and this is Braidotti’s conception of a posthuman world.

Braidotti, Rosi. “Post-Anthroprocentrism: Life beyond the species.” The Posthuman. Oxford: Polity, 2013. 55-104

Heidegger & Graham

In Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology,” he ultimately suggests that we incorporate a more artistic or poetical vision into our view of the world because art reveals the world as it is without trying to quantify or measure like technology does. Art, according to Heidegger, is the best “realm” for viewing the world because art is “akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it” (Heidegger 35). This sentiment is exhibited in many ways throughout Maniac.

Graham’s “Gods and Monsters” explores the idea of “transcendence” which can be used to explain how art reveals the world for how it truly is in Maniac without using technology to appraise and calculate. He explains that a posthuman understanding of transcendence is “equated with idealism and dualism, of the physical world as an encumbrance and illusion, an implicit denigration of embodiment and materialism” (Graham 230).

We already know that Don Quixote is referred to frequently throughout Maniac. The plot of the novel (art) transcends the plot of the show (art) because Owen is essentially Don Quixote himself, fighting his own illusory windmill giants (technology) with the quixotic motivation to save the world. Next, Episode 7 is titled “Ceci N’est Pas Une Drill,” which translates to “This is not a drill.” It is playing off the similar title of a famous painting. Owen’s mafia family has a painting of a drill hanging on the wall of their kill den. This irony is significant because the drill in the painting is only an image yet somehow that work of art transcends reality when the drill is no longer just an image and becomes a tangible weapon of choice. Perhaps this is why the drill didn’t work originally, because it was meant to remain a piece of art and only once technology intervened was it able to function in a new world—but this would seem to contradict Heidegger. The only redemption of this contradiction lies in the fact that the drill worked within the simulation and we can classify the simulations as works of art themselves.

Graham, Elaine L. “Gods and monsters.” Representations of the post/human: Monsters, aliens and others in popular culture. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002. 221-235

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Trans. William Lovitt. New York: Garland Publishing Inc, 1977. 3-35

Derrida & Baudrillard

Derrida highlights that there is a problem with how we, as humans, try to understand Being with a capital “B,” because how can we understand ourselves outside of ourselves because we are ourselves? He emphasizes an inescapable circular nature of humanism: “The fact remains that there is an essential and explicit bond between this value of proximity–ontically given or ontologically refused, but promised–and phenomenology: the Dasein must ‘be able to show itself in itself and from itself'” (Derrida 49).

Throughout the semester, I have worked with the idea that humanism is cyclical in nature and that the posthuman is merely a return to early human-ness. I feel Derrida’s sentiments are in line with this thesis and can be applied to Baudrillard’s work as well. Baudrillard laments the invasion of technologies in our everyday lives and the loss of private thought when he emphasizes: “It is no longer the traditional obscenity of what is hidden, repressed, forbidden or obscure; on the contrary, it is the obscenity of the visible, of the all-too-visible, of the more-visible-than-the-visible. It is the obscenity of what no longer has any secret, of what dissolves completely in information and communication” (Baudrillard 131). Privacy is arguably a constructed concept, but so is language, and the evolution of humankind is essentially adapting newer “technologies” into day-to-day operations–so is this not just a priminitive human behavior?

In Maniac, the underlying motivation behind the drug trials for Dr. Mantleray is to replace his lost connection with his mom. Call me repetitive, but a desire for human connection seems like a basic characteristic of the human condition, and mommy issues are a tale as old as time. Mantleray channels his issues into the anthropomorphized GRTA–Mantleray is unable to separate himself and his own issues from the experiment, not to mention the fact that GRTA inquires into “her” own state of being. When GRTA malfunctions “she” poses a threat to both the science of the experiment and the patients themselves, but the scientists decide to carry on anyway despite the potential risks they are exposing the subjects to. Derrida argues that there has been so much consideration about “man” yet this situation demonstrates the exact opposite, and as a result, privacy is violated when Owen and Annie invade eachother’s visions (dreams?). This new reality, this private-because-it’s-in-their-minds but not really private because they can see in eachother’s minds reality has been constructed, and by a technological being no less. Could a characteristic of the posthuman condition be the ability to construct realities whether it is for your own body (albeit metal or biological) or another?  If GRTA represents the essential posthuman being or posthuman-ness, then it further proves the cyclical nature of the human condition, because as advanced as GRTA is internally, “she” aesthetically resembles technology that was popular in the 80s.

Baudrillard, Jean. “The Ecstasy of Communication.” The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. New York: New Press, 2002: 126-134.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Ends of Man.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 30:1 (Sept. 1969). 31-57

Foucault & Hughes

First and foremost, I am not sure that I agree with Hughes. He suggests “Addressing the unhappiness caused by brain chemistry requires not just universal access to the new pharmaceuticals but, equally important, investments in social reform and public welfare,” but he does not address the social causes of unhappines (Hughes 48). In Maniac, Annie, Owen, and the other participants are screened for the drug trial based off of their responses to images. Even though similar responses yielded entry into the trial, all of the participants are very different in nature. Owen is an untreated schizophrenic who feels unimportant in the world, Annie is mourning the loss of her sister and feels responsible for her death, and the guy who tried to smuggle in all those condoms is probably very alone and extremely sexually frustrated. All of these characters are experiencing unhappiness that stem from three very different situations so it is unlikey that the same magical pill will be able to treat all of them, yet this is basically what Hughes proposes in his article. Hughes himself even recognizes that there are different types of unhapiness: “physical pain…suffering caused by psychiatric illness…ordinary suffering…desires not being met by our lives…the angst of meaningless existense…” (44). He also doesn’t address emotional numbing and self-medicating which is a very common and very serious phenomenon. One could argue that is what Annie does by taking the pills recreationally and without proper medical supervision, yet Hughes suggests we “allow patients to determine when and whether to inject themselves with a predetermined dosage of narcotic” which can be problematic for reasons like emotional numbing (45).

Foucault, on the other hand, has the right idea! Hughes is basically advising that we “treat” people rather than tolerate them for being different as Foucault suggests: “indigence, laziness, vice, and madness mingled in an equal guilt within unreason; madmen were caught in the great confinement of poverty and unemployment, but all had been promoted, in the proximity of transgression, to the essence of a Fall. Now madness belonged to social failure, which appeared without distinction as its cause, model, and limit” (150). Maybe Hughes’ plan should treat guilt (Foucault’s advocated cause of madness/unhappiness) instead of unhappiness–Annie would surely be a candidate. Annie cannot escape her guilt, she “c[an] not be dislodged from h[er] immediate truth,” the truth that she is semi-responsible for her sister’s death, and that the last conversation they had was a heated argument (Foucault 151). Even so, I return to my original argument–one pill can’t possibly treat all guilt, because like unhappiness, there is no universal guilt and there are different types of guilt that have varying origins.

Foucault, Michel. “The Birth of the Asylum.” The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.  141-167

Hughes, James. “Being Happier.” Citizen Cyborg: why democratic societies must respond to the redesigned human of the future. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press, 2004. 43-52

Project Proposal

The Function of Dating in a Posthuman World

I would start by researching and tracking relationship trends for as far back as I can get definitive answers. The idea is to analyze articles, youtube videos, dating websites, etc. to explore the status of dating nowadays (are we already living in a posthuman condition??) and what it potentially might look like in the future. There’s a new dating app in particular that is called “Ship” that I am especially interested in. The idea of the app is that you invite your friends onto the app (whether they’re single or not) to help you pick a date, with the idea being that your friends know you so well that they should be able to find you a suitable match. I propose that this app is arguably the posthuman condition of an arranged marriage and therefore suggest that the posthuman dating condition is a return to atiquated, simpler practices and consequently offering that humanity exists cyclically.

Ideas/examples I want to explore:

  • Arranged Marriages
    • Primitive or beneficial
    • business transaction
  • “Hook-up culture” of 60s & 70s
    • Birth control pill emerges
    • controlling fertility=posthuman action?
  • OG “online” dating when sent in videotapes
  • Online dating
    • Paying for membership
    • like paying in arranged marriage?
  • Dating apps
    • Online identities
      • Catfishing
      • People who never meet in person
    • The new app “Ship”
      • The idea of it is that you invite friends to filter the dates on your profile for you
      • Is this not just an advanced form of an arranged relationship??–>is human advancement cyclical?
      • If you view arranged relationships as primitive then is the state of the posthuman a regression back to the primitive??


I am unsure about this direction of research, I feel that it might be branching too much/would be biting off more than I can chew. Let me know your thoughts. I basically categorized a posthuman world into 3 groupings based off of what I’ve experienced in posthuman texts: a chaotic world currently enduring some sort of catostrophic event (Apocalyptic), a world rebuilt after some huge event (Rebuilt Post-Apocalyptic), and a world with cyborgs/robots/technological enhancements (Non-Biological Bodies). This can be problematic, however, because I’m not an expert so creating my own categories is a bit risky, but basically, I’m questioning if the availabilty of resources (or the lack thereof) affects who you choose as a mate. I also dive into fertility a bit and question if the pressure of repopulating can define a posthuman world while also asking can no human exist on their own? For this part, I examine movies (Book of Eli, Mad Max, Children of Men), books (Never Let Me Go, Oryx and Crake), and television (Walking Dead, Black Mirror).

  • Does the state of the posthuman world affect dating?
    • Apocalyptic
      • Walking Dead–take what you can get
    • Rebuilt Post Apocalyptic
      • Book of Eli–forced
      • Mad Max–forced
    • Non-Biological Bodies
      • Oryx and Crake–preprogrammed, no love
      • Never Let Me Go–preprogrammed
      • Black Mirror–predetermined
    • Does the availability of resources affect romantic pairing?
      • Perhaps it’s the last thing on your mind
      • Obligation to repopulate
  • Does the posthuman relationship depend on repopulation if the posthuman world has endured some sort of catastrophic event?
    • Can’t repopulate with robots
    • Children of Men
    • Can no one exist on their own or do we need to pair off?

Edbauer & Boyle

“Writing is distributed across a range of processes and encounters: the event of using a keyboard, the encounter of a writing body within a space of dis/comfort, the events of writing in an apathetic/energetic/distant/close group. A vocabulary of “distribution” points to how those elements are enacted and lived, how they are put into use, and what change comes from the in-processes-ness itself.”

–Jenny Edbauer

Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 35:4 (Fall 2005), 5-24.

Edbauer emphasizes the ripple effects that writing can have on a community and how conversations don’t stop at the pages. I want to bring Boyle’s drone example into Edbauer’s conversation. In class, it was suggested that drone operators hypothetically become one with the drone and the flying and bomb-dropping becomes reflexive, similar to someone playing a video game. Drone operators are tuned into the machine and to the militaristic, violent environment. I feel this is too linear of an explanation though. I think it is fair to assume that skills such as hand-eye coordination that drone operators master are translatable to other situations in life just as how a drone can be used for a variety of reasons such as missile dropping, reconnaissance, or picture taking, because after all, “Practice enables its practitioner to intuit relationships within an unfolding event based on prior experience with similar relations” (Boyle 50).

“Tuning, though, a posthuman practice whereby disparate relations become resolved in some way, should not be automatically thought to be teleological drive toward a harmonious relation. Tuning can, and often does, result in bad affects...” –Casey Boyle

Boyle, Casey. “Rhetorical Ecologies of Posthuman Practice.” Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2018. 27-59

What I am curious about however are how the mental health effects suffered by the drone operators (and not the drones) fit into the posthuman conversation. In this specific example, mental health consequences are just one ripple of the human/drone relationship. I have a close friend who is rethinking his drone operating position in the military because of the toll it is taking on his mind. He received an award last year for having the most kills in his unit but it is not an award that he is proud of nor one that he will talk about, but how large is his role in the killings? Technically he is thousands of miles away and never sees the faces of the targets, but does the drone then become a part of him if his mind is the one controlling it. In this case then, the posthuman is a separation of body and mind, but the drone doesn’t suffer from guilt or shame after taking a life. These feelings don’t just dissipate when he leaves the base either, they come home with him, which could be argued as another translatable posthuman experience. Is it shame and guilt then that separates a human from a machine? I knew another man with the same job who would watch the footage that the on-ground men would film and document any collateral damage after a drone strike even though this wasn’t a requirement of his job. I believe he did it to keep himself “human” and to remind himself that he wasn’t just a killing machine, that he and his drone are two separate beings. I accidentally walked into the room one time as he watched one of these videos and I can say personally that I never forgot that image of destruction and it has shaped my views on drones and how our military utilizes them. The effects the video had on me though is probably far different and spans out in very different ways than how it affected him. However, this footage was viewed on a television screen and was filmed by another machine, so perhaps there is no escaping atunement and the ripple effects of a posthuman condition.

Hallenbeck & Butler

WARNING: Minor Alita: Battle Angel plot spoilers ahead

“It has seemed to many, I think, that in order for feminism to proceed as a critical practice, it must ground itself in the sexed specificity of the female body. Even as the category of sex is always reinscribed as gender, that sex must still be presumed as the irreducible point of departure for the various cultural constructions it has come to bear.”  (Butler 4) 

Butler, Judith. “Bodies that Matter.” Bodies that Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993. 3-27

Last night, I saw the movie Alita: Battle Angel. It was an unplanned, spontaneous occasion and I never would have gone out of my way to see this movie otherwise if it was not for the specific circumstances. Although not my usual cup of tea, I found myself analyzing the film for posthuman meaning and applying critical lenses to the plot. This mental processing of mine led me to a questioning blackhole that I am going to try articulate here, but first I will provide some context. The main character, Alita (named by the doctor), is found in a dump by Dr. Ido, and when I say she was found, I mean a mass from about the collarbone up. Dr. Ido takes her home, attaches her to a mechanical body, and is able to revive the cyborg. The audience later finds out that this mechanical body that Dr. Ido connected Alita to was initially intended for his daughter. Later in the movie, Alita comes across a new mechanical body that she is more attracted to and the doctor agrees to attach her head/neck/collarbone body to the new mechanical frame. When this happens, the doctor’s assistant, Nurse Gerhad, makes a remark along the lines of ‘oh, she seems to be a little older than we thought’ as the new mechanical body “grows” a bigger chest, longer appendages, and what looks like they are supposed to resemble muscles.

“As feminists, we have generally pursued the project of recovering and recalibrating women’s, rather than gendered, rhetorics. Although feminist scholars in related fields—such as cultural studies and literary theory—have shifted the focus of their inquiry to gender, our work has largely maintained its focus on women’s theories, texts, and pedagogies rather than on the broader array of theories, texts, and pedagogies that have influenced constantly shifting yet surprisingly durable constructions of gender.” (Hallenbeck 14)

Hallenbeck, Sarah. “Toward a Posthuman Perspective: Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies and Everyday Practices.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric. 15:1, 2012. 9-27. Downloaded from

I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS! First of all, how did Dr. Ido know that Alita would want a female body when all she was at first was an unconscious head/neck/collarbone? Just because his daughter identified as female and liked the body, didn’t mean that Alita was going to identify as female too! Since she was unconscious, how did the doctor make this assumption? Because this head he found had longer hair? Smoother skin? Poutier lips? This goes back to earlier in the week when the class was trying to define what is “female,” but if the body is entirely mechanical, can it even be considered female? I found it semi-laughable when Alita grew the bigger metal breasts, because what’s the point for a cyborg? It’s not like mom robots breastfeed baby robots, so is it purely aesthetic? Aesthetic for who though because that would imply that cyborgs can manifest feelings such as vanity and lust, but emotions are a human thing, right? Or are they? Can these cyborgs be definitively considered human because they can feel emotions? The fact that Alita can just discard her mechanical bodies as she pleases suggests an emphasis on the higher worth of the mind over the body, so why even gender the body in the first place? I don’t know how to even begin to answer any of these questions, but it is hard not to think about Butler’s and Hallenbeck’s main arguments while examining Alita and the cyber bodies.

Alita and her “younger” body
Alita and her “older” body

Foucault and Badmington

I recently began following an account on Instagram that is run by a newly college-graduated girl who goes by the alias of Average Fashion Blogger @averagefashionblogger. Average Fashion Blogger (Courtney Parchman) posts satirical videos that mimic viral beauty, lifestyle, and fashion tip videos commonly viewed on famous influencer accounts with millions of followers. In one such video posted January 3, 2019, for example, Average Fashion Blogger boasts that camouflage is “super in this season” proceeds to demonstrate how rolling around in the dirt and rubbing it into your clothing can give you the camouflage look…for free! In another video posted February 11, 2019 AFB illustrates how to strategically tie a string around your head to perk up your lips to give you the same sultry pout made famous by Kylie Jenner and her temporary lip injunctions without actually having to go to a doctor’s office. Although the editing and background music of AFB’s videos are akin to actual fashion and lifestyle videos, the content itself is undoubtedly sardonic. I would argue, however, that Average Fashion Blogger has become, in essence, the very type of account that she originally was poking fun at. Even though modes of measuring popularity are debatable, the number of “followers” an account has is a legitimate and concrete way to determine how desirable an account is–Average Fashion Blogger has amassed over 132,000 despite her original ironic mission.

I turn to Foucault as I question if Average Fashion Blogger’s account indeed creates a unique parodied identity. Despite encouraging the freedom of individuality, albeit, within the systemic orders set forth by society, Foucault questioned whether or not humans (we) can ever have an original thought: “The critical ontology of ourselves. . . has to be conceived as an attitude . . . in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them” (Foucault 44). Average Fashion Blogger frequently refers to “historical” accounts for her own material, but it is far from original. Badmington further supports this when he “expose[s] how humanism is forever rewriting itself as posthumanism” when he explains “If the version of posthumanism that I am trying to develop here repeats humanism, it does so in a certain way and with a view to the deconstruction of anthropocentric thought” (15-16). I propose that AFB is merely rewriting the fashion blog, deconstructing it, not breaking it down and creating something new.

  1. Badmington, Neil. “Theorizing Posthumanism.” Cultural Critique 53.1 (2003): 10-27. JSTOR. Web. 4 Sept. 2016.
  2. Foucault, Michel. “What is Enlightenment?” The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985. 32-50

Descartes and Hayles

In Part IV of Descartes’ Discourse on Method, Descartes calls for an abandonment of the senses since senses can be deceiving–essentially abandoning all sensory perceptions and knowledge. Although he felt that human beings are not human beings without the ability to reason, he realized that we are all prone to judgmental errors. He ran with this doubt and concluded that our minds are completely distinct from our bodies–but what is the “body” is virtual or inorganic? In Hayles’ “Prologue” and “Toward Embodied Virtuality,” she describes two tests, the Turing test, and the Moravec test. The Turing test is supposed to be able to decipher between human and machine and it showed that machines are capable of exhibiting patterns of thinking that were “previously considered to be an exclusive capacity of the human mind” (xii). The Moravec test essentially showed that “machines can become the repository of human consciousness–that machines can, for all practical purposes, become human beings” (xii). In Descartes terms, this would mean that machines are just as capable of reason as human beings are and that we can no longer attribute the ability to reason as an exclusively human characteristic. I personally feel, however, that even if machines are capable of reasoning they’ll never be able to create original masterpieces. Sure, every song, story, and movie follows a basic underlying formula. You could probably program a machine to know that there is always a beginning, a middle, an end and then sprinkle in some key concepts like a climax, plot twist, supporting characters, etc. But that machine would have to pull these ideas from somewhere, right? I’ve thought about this before (as you can probably tell) and I believe this is the future to making a living as an artist of any sort. Everyone knows singers, for example, don’t make their money from album sales anymore because of streaming services and affordable monthly download plans. They’ve resorted to live gigs and other business ventures. So if machines can think for themselves but don’t have inherent creativity, I propose that in a royalty-esque type deal, the future of the arts is in allowing programmers to upload all books of a series, for example, to the machines and then the author gets paid for the use of the intellectual property. Then the machine can create an “original” novel by pulling from the uploaded novels and original authors can be paid accordingly. Along with this reasoning, I also think a background in arts or humanities is going to be more secure since STEM jobs are being replaced by machines right before our eyes. I don’t think it is the ability to reason or the ability to think that separates us from the machines, I think it’s creativity…but what do I know!