Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Nonhuman Turn

The Nonhuman Turn

Richard Grusin Editor
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Nonhuman Turn
    Book Description:

    Edited by Richard Grusin of the Center for 21st Century Studies, this is the first book to name and characterize-and therefore consolidate-a wide array of current critical, theoretical, and philosophical approaches to the humanities and social sciences under the concept of the nonhuman turn. Each of these approaches is engaged in decentering the human in favor of a concern for the nonhuman, understood by contributors in a variety of ways-in terms of animals, affectivity, bodies, materiality, technologies, and organic and geophysical systems.

    The nonhuman turn in twenty-first-century studies can be traced to multiple intellectual and theoretical developments from the last decades of the twentieth century: actor-network theory, affect theory, animal studies, assemblage theory, cognitive sciences, new materialism, new media theory, speculative realism, and systems theory. Such varied analytical and theoretical formations obviously diverge and disagree in many of their assumptions, objects, and methodologies. However, they all take up aspects of the nonhuman as critical to the future of twenty-first-century studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

    Unlike the posthuman turn, the nonhuman turn does not make a claim about teleology or progress in which we begin with the human and see a transformation from the human to the posthuman. Rather, the nonhuman turn insists (paraphrasing Bruno Latour) that "we have never been human," that the human has always coevolved, coexisted, or collaborated with the nonhuman-and that the human is identified precisely by this indistinction from the nonhuman.

    Contributors: Jane Bennett, Johns Hopkins U; Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology; Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Brown U; Mark B. N. Hansen, Duke U; Erin Manning, Concordia U, Montreal; Brian Massumi, U of Montreal; Timothy Morton, Rice U; Steven Shaviro, Wayne State U; Rebekah Sheldon, Indiana U.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4390-9
    Subjects: Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxx)

    THIS BOOK SEEKS TO NAME, characterize, and therefore to consolidate a wide variety of recent and current critical, theoretical, and philosophical approaches to the humanities and social sciences. Each of these approaches, and the nonhuman turn more generally, is engaged in decentering the human in favor of a turn toward and concern for the nonhuman, understood variously in terms of animals, affectivity, bodies, organic and geophysical systems, materiality, or technologies. The conference from which this book emerged, hosted by the Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was organized to explore how the nonhuman turn might...

  4. 1 The Supernormal Animal
    (pp. 1-18)

    THE ATHLETIC GRACE of the pounce of the lynx. The architectural feats of the savanna termite. The complex weave of the orb spider’s web. We admire these accomplishments as marvels of the natural world. The wonder resides as much in the automatic nature of these animal accomplishments as in their summum of technical perfection. Instinct: an innate condensation of ancestral wisdom passed from generation to generation, acquired through random mutation, retained through adaptive selection, unfolding with such regularity and efficiency as to rival the most skilled of human artisans (and in the case of certain social animals, apt to put...

  5. 2 Consequences of Panpsychism
    (pp. 19-44)

    WHAT IS IT LIKE To Be a Rock? Rudy Rucker’s science fiction short story “Panpsychism Proved” (2007) provides one possible answer. An engineer at Apple named Shirley invents a new “mindlink” technology, which allows people to “directly experience each other’s thoughts.” When two individuals swallow “microgram quantities of entangled pairs of carbon atoms,” they enter into direct telepathic contact. Shirley hopes to seduce her coworker Rick by melding their minds together. Unfortunately, he has other plans. She ingests a batch of entangled carbon particles; but Rick dumps his corresponding batch on a boulder. Instead of getting in touch with Rick,...

  6. 3 Artfulness
    (pp. 45-80)

    The wordartin German (die Art) continues today to carry one of the earliest meanings of the term: “manner” or “mode.” In the early thirteenth century, art was still connected to this qualifying notion, attuned less to an object than to a skill or craft of learning.¹ A way of learning. To speak of a “way” is to dwell on the process itself, on its manner of becoming. It is to emphasize that art is before all else a quality, a difference in kind, a technique, that maps the way toward a certain attunement of world and expression.


  7. 4 The Aesthetics of Philosophical Carpentry
    (pp. 81-100)

    This is a chapter about the practice of philosophy in the near future, based on a talk about the practice of philosophy in the near future. This is a chapter about the objects out of which philosophy is made as much as the objects of philosophy. Its form matters. It lives here now, in print, where once it did in speech—and in space: Shorewood, Milwaukee—and in time: early May 2012. It was invented for a room and now it finds itself on these pages instead. Some residue of its forcible relocation might be found, as is the case...

  8. 5 Our Predictive Condition; or, Predictive in the Wild
    (pp. 101-138)

    The February 2013 confirmation hearings for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, rekindled—indeed significantly ramped up—comparisons between the administration’s recent policy decisions concerning collection of personal data and the fantasy of “precrime” made famous by Steven Spielberg’s 2002 filmMinority Report.Already in December 2012, following aWall Street Journalarticle detailing Eric Holder’s March 2012 decision to grant the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) broad rights to collect and archive private data from individual citizens,¹ Jesseyln Raddack, national security and human rights director at the whistleblower nonprofit Government Accountability Project, likened the administration’s move to...

  9. 6 Crisis, Crisis, Crisis; or, The Temporality of Networks
    (pp. 139-166)

    HOW ARE CODES AND SAFETY RELATED? How can we understand the current proliferation of codes designed to guarantee our safety and of crises that endanger it?

    Codes, historically linked to rules and laws, seek to exempt us from hurt or injury by establishing norms, which order the present and render calculable the future. As Adrian Mackenzie and Theo Vurdubakis note, “Code systems and codes of conduct pervade many registers of ‘ safe living.’ . . . Many situations today become manageable or tractable by virtue of their codeability.”¹ Although codes encompass more than software—they are also “cultural, moral, ethical”...

  10. 7 They Are Here
    (pp. 167-192)

    IN THIS CHAPTER, I analyze Toni Basil’s video for the Talking Heads’ song “Crosseyed and Painless” (1980). I strive to show that the way in which the video stages the proximity of poor African Americans to the broken tools of modernity, far from valorizing their immiseration, offers a way to think black environmental consciousness as symptomatic of and central to the emerging ecological age, the age of global warming.

    I do this by thinking about nonhumans. Thinking antiracism has often proceeded by thinking within lines that preestablish thin and rigid boundaries between the human and nonhuman realms (subject and object,...

  11. 8 Form / Matter / Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism
    (pp. 193-222)

    THE FIRST DECADES of the twenty-first century have seen a number of challenges to the centrality of epistemology in literary and cultural theory, from the rise of neuroaesthetics and machine reading to the return of phenomenology and affect theory. Despite their diversity, these new paradigms reflect an ambient dissatisfaction with the ascription of causality at the root of the theoretical enterprise by putting pressure on the equation between apt description and social change. In their own ways, each questions the importance of representation, often through an implicit argument that the distinction between reality and its mediation is out of sync...

  12. 9 Systems and Things: On Vital Materialism and Object-Oriented Philosophy
    (pp. 223-240)

    THE RECENT TURN TOWARD NONHUMANS in the humanities and social sciences takes place within a complex swarm of other intellectual, affective, scientific, and political-economic trends.¹ I think that two such trends are especially relevant. The first is a growing awareness of the accelerating concentration of wealth within neoliberal economies, as expressed by the Occupy movement and by the renewed vitality of Marx-inspired political analyses.² Marxisms speak powerfully to the desire for a radical, forceful counter response to the injustices of global capitalism. But “historical materialisms” are not perceived as offering an equally satisfying response to a second set of trends,...

  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 241-242)
  14. Contributors
    (pp. 243-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-255)