- Education Out of Bounds: Reimagining Cultural Studies for a Posthuman Age
How should cultural studies respond to the defining features of contemporary biopolitics: the investment of capitalist bioproduction into nearly all facets of social life and the “state of exception” through which modern sovereignty rules over bare life? This question underlies the proposal for “exopedagogy” elaborated by Tyson E. Lewis and Richard Kahn in Education Out of Bounds: Reimagining Cultural Studies for a Posthuman Age, a text that will interest critics working in animal studies, critical pedagogy, and Marxist cultural studies. According to the authors, exopedagogy confronts the biopolitical order by evaluating figures of monstrosity—including feral [End Page 392] children, reptoid aliens, and faeries—and intensifying their potential for imagining social relations not predicated on the exclusion and exploitation of non-human life. Instead, exopedagogy welcomes the “monster as the founding gesture of a coming community” that exists beyond the “bounds” of species belonging, surplus value, or the divisions of nature and culture (xi; original emphasis).
Lewis and Kahn argue that, in their progressive forms, monsters exemplify a “zone of indistinction” wherein anthropocentric binaries become indeterminate and the hierarchical privileging of human life becomes impossible (69). They thus define the monstrous as “the imaginative disorganization of categories and subject roles through which new democratic insurgencies stake a claim and through which a novel imagination dreams of impossible new forms of liberation, new forms of unrepresentable common life” (x). Lewis and Kahn insist on the imagination as the terrain for mapping these insurgencies because it shares the monster’s non-instrumentality and dislocation between binary terms (affect and thought) (2). Reciprocally, monstrous figures intensify “the pre-critical, pre-conscious sensation of disturbance and distortion, creating new resonances of thought and feeling within the diagram of imagination” (18).
To articulate a democratic, posthuman political imagination, the authors outline a “bestiary” to catalogue monsters which provide an “exodus” from capitalism and anthropocentrism (9). Their “Intermezzo” chapter locates methodological precedent in Capital, arguing that Marx deploys the vampire, werewolf, and Medusa to allegorize the expropriation of surplus value, commodity fetishism, and ideological mystification, respectively. Marx falters, they argue, in denigrating these figures to envision a non-alienated proletariat redeemed from capitalism’s dehumanization. Alternately, they favor Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s claim that the monster expresses the revolutionary capacities of the multitude—its existence outside exclusive structures of community and its creation of a democratic commonwealth through non-appropriable excesses (the “surplus common”) of biopolitical labor. Inspired by the correlation of the multitude with the monstrous, Lewis and Kahn revaluate Marx’s monsters for their potential to imagine the multitude’s becoming.
The successive chapters contribute exopedagogical figures to the Marxist bestiary. The first studies Victor, a “feral” child discovered in France in 1800, whose education by Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard represents the “primal scene” of “humanist pedagogy” (42). Lewis and Kahn argue that Itard’s pathologizing Victor serves to immunize the anthropocentric order from the monstrous other, and they demonstrate how animality haunts the “melancholic educational subject” despite his violent interpellation into humanity (43). The second and third chapters seek exopedagogies that alternately solicit “contamination” from the non-human. The second analyzes David Icke’s “reptoid hypothesis,” a conspiracy theory that postulates humanity is secretly enslaved by alien lizards. The authors affirm Icke’s representation of a posthuman community emerging through sensory dislocations (the [End Page 393] “UFOther”) that challenge rationalization and reveal the non-human within. The third chapter surveys “faery subcultures” such as the Fairy Congress and Neopagan communities and valorizes those seeking to disrupt the sovereign “ban” against zoë, the “constitutive and generative powers of life itself” (113). To usher in an “altermodernity” freed of human domination, the authors call for “zoöphilic love” that ruptures divisions among species and cultivates passion for life’s potentiality, an “ethics” the epilogue explicates through representations of interspecies love in popular culture and bestiality communities.
Lewis and Kahn’s exopedagogy offers a compelling intervention into the political disruption of anthropocentrism. Rather than expand...