Patricia MacCormack

The ahuman is a concept coined in the 2014 collected anthology The Animal Catalyst: Toward Ahuman Theory. It sees posthumanism in a parabolic configuration to challenge both the evolutionary monodirectional linearity of cyber biotechnic-based posthumanism and the increasing use of nonhuman animals in posthumanism as a devolutionary metaphor.

The ahuman’s parabola has in one direction nonhuman animals and in the other something which refuses the privilege and signifying systems of the human but does not institute a new version of posthumanism which would continue those tendencies albeit in a mutated form. The apex of the parabola is the (now defunct myth of the) human. The nonhuman animal and the ahuman are thus close in proximity but absolutely extricated from each other simultaneously.

Ahuman theory comes from two motives. The first is the increasing movement from animal rights to absolute abolition. Animal rights traditionally serves the interests of nonhumans based on equivalences with humans and is a flawed politics of equality (equal to the human) rather than difference. Abolition sees the rights of any entity based on not what it is but that it is. Human compulsions to define animal rights define the animal and the discourse is ultimately one between humans and their dominant perceptions of nonhuman entities in order to vindicate their exploitation of those entities.

So all animal studies is inherently human studies between humans of the other and has no nonhuman benefit except in its capacity to catalyse humans to stop being human. In animal rights and animal studies the nonhuman is imposed within a structure for which it has neither given consent nor has the power of address and for this reason becomes the differend after Lyotard’s description of the victim who cannot be plaintiff because it cannot manipulate the master’s discourse.

Abolitionists are activists against all use of animals acknowledging communication is fatally human so we can never know modes of nonhuman communication and to do so is both hubris and materially detrimental to nonhumans. Abolitionists advocate the end of all use of all animals for all purposes and select words to exchange for those in circulation in describing the oppression of nonhumans – ‘food’ (cannibalism for meat, rape and theft and murder of young for dairy and chicken use, murder), ‘entertainment’ (enslavement), ‘research’ (torture) and so forth.

Abolitionist philosophers are also against the fetishisation of nonhumans in posthuman becomings and refuse the use of human perceptions of nonhuman systems and entities as assimilative and co-optive. In both incarnations, abolitionism remains antagonistic to and is considered radical by animal rights, animal studies and ethology in its refusal to utilize animals.

Abolition, after Serres, follows the tenets of symbiosis which is a form of necessary care and grace which is a leaving (to) be in reference to human-nonhuman inevitable interaction – a natural contract which overthrows the entirely social contract within which most current debates around nonhuman entities occurs and which thus will always exclude them. The second motive for ahuman theory negotiates the question of what becomes of the human when it is neither posthuman cyborg nor animal fetishist. We remain non-nonhuman animals yet we must still acknowledge our biological organism’s place within the ecosophical series of relations.

Ahuman theory promotes catalyzing becoming-other from the majoritarian or all human privilege and renouncing the benefits of the anthropocene. This can occur in infinite ways. Some of the suggestions offered include the use of all manifestations of art to form new terrains of apprehension of the world and encourage new ethical relations between entities, the cessation of reproduction toward an end of the human as a parasitic detrimental species, and thinking differently about death by advocating for suicide, euthanasia and a good life over biotechnologies drive for immortality. However these are few of any variety of tactics which could shift human signifying systems toward ahuman asemiotic reterritorializations of connectivity and novel participations. 

Text first appears as entry under ‘Ahuman’ in

The Posthuman Glossary, Bloomsbury, edited by Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova (2018)

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