- Human Together:Into the Interior of Auto/OntoPoeisis
Is posthumanism the effort to think the human beyond the western tradition of colonial modernity or yet another repetition of the idea of Man by way of its current development, namely, what Sylvia Wynter calls “its second, purely secular, biocentric, and overrepresented modality of being human” (2003, 317)? In the latter case, posthumanism runs the danger of being the appellation for discourses that promise the “end of man” while being wrapped in “a dialectics of truth and negativity” (Derrida 1982, 121) that ultimately affirms a “we” grounded in the “unity of absolute knowledge and anthropology, of God and man, of onto-theo-teleology and humanism” (1982, 121).1 Jacques Derrida warns against the false optimism of humanism that, despite its new clothes, ultimately reaffirms a certain idea of man, namely, the citizen, the documented worker, the one always already with rights. Derrida’s warning is still timely, despite the promise of the post in posthumanism, that is, post western humanism, post anthropocentrism and its phallogocentric traditions, post the humanism of colonial modernity, and in the wake of the decolonization of being by the contrapuntal and overlapping efforts of thinkers like Frantz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Walter Mignolo, Edward Said, and Sylvia Wynter, to mention only a few characteristic examples of the anticolonial thought that has consolidated this decolonizing effort across different disciplines, territories and histories.
Nowadays, the false optimism is manifested in the ways “we,” recognized as human beings with access to rights and their frames of representation, tend to forget the growing numbers of human beings without rights such as the stateless peoples, the refugees and the immigrants without documents, who remain outside the definition that equates human with Man, and who still have to fight for the fundamental right of all rights, what Hannah Arendt calls “the right to have rights” (1968, 176). The current tide of war refugees and the policies of the EU that turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean attests to the need to continue to critique the [End Page 153] humanist heritage of colonial modernity in order to move beyond a certain idea of Man that circumscribes the question of the human and her rights. Contrary to Said’s vented exasperation with poststructuralist discourses in his last testament to humanism in Humanism and Democratic Criticism, where he takes a stance against the antihumanist and deconstructive reception of the western heritage of humanism for the sake of restoring the universalist scope of its core ideals as the remaining task of the humanities, a number of critics continue to argue that the idea of the human that is sustained as a currency for measuring the humanness of other humans has not been deconstructed enough. At least, it has not been done so in view of the co-occurrence, some times convivial and more than often polemical, of this heritage of humanism with the cosmogonies2 of the millions of humans that were seen as the “mixture of the half-created and the incomplete” and were assigned the “bottomless abyss where everything is noise, yawning gap, and primordial chaos” (Mbembe 2001, 2). What about the human lives and their forms of livity3 that have been represented as biologically inferior according to what Wynter calls the “pseudoscientific concept of the human as an evolutionary selected being” that “would also function to block off any questions about being--about, that is, how as humans we attain to human beingness and do so now in a profane or secular rather than sacred modality” (Wynter 1989, 639)?
This question resonates in Said’s work, of course, not only in Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, but also in his work on Palestine, particularly in the After the Last Sky, which moves into the interior of the precarity and yet “prevailing attitude” (1999, 100) of the Palestinians who find the ways of “turning presence into small-scale obduracy” and “producing themselves” (108) through work that contributes to the maintenance of their public and private spaces and the creation of persevering attachments to things and practices, however small or insignificant they might be at least...