Mapping the Human - Between Animals and Machines

Term: Spring 2013

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 5889

This course explores definitions of the human in two intertwined contexts: 1) in an increasingly technological society, and 2) in relation to the (other) animals that we class and dismiss as non-human. What is human? What is /not/ human? These questions have been asked, explicitly and surreptitiously, in different ways and in different

epochs, usually by those who write and act in the human subject's name. As with many slippery categories, we may have difficulty arriving at a solid definition; however, we feel confident that we are in the presence of "humanity" when we see it, or interact with it. The human comes in many conceptual types: ontological, ethical, political, biological,

cultural, etc. It is thus a revealing task to "map" the human on to key texts and sites in contemporary society, in order to better understand the myriad assumptions "we" have inherited from the past. This course is a vigilant questioning of fixed modes of categorization (taxonomy), especially those subliminal binaries we take so much for granted. The syllabus reflects a belief that the /form/, /structure/, /deployment/

and /presence/ of media are as crucial to understanding and reconfiguring "culture" than distanced, would-be objective readings of assumed /content/. Nevertheless, the content of humanity -- "the species without qualities" -- will be also at issue during our discussions.  Works studied include Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: of Man and Animal; Harold Bloom’s Invention of the Human; Bruno Latour’s A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans; plus additional works by Norbert Wiener, Donna Haraway, Glen A. Mazis, Marshall McLuhan, F.T. Marinetti and Friedrich Kittler.

< back

Connect with the New School