Style: This Video is part of the Youtube Channel "Posthumans Go Viral".
Author: Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
"COVID19 AND THE POSTHUMAN"
"CRITICAL RACE AND THE POSTHUMAN"
"POSTHUMAN CHINESE FORUM"
"POSTHUMAN LATIN-AMERICAN NETWORK"
"POSTHUMAN ITALIAN NETWORK"
Context: Recorded in April 2020 in Italy, during the (prolonged) lockdown due to the Covid-19 Emergency
Style: This Video is part of the Youtube Channel "Posthumans Go Viral".
Author: Stefan Lorenz Sorgner
Dolphins in Venice and Where to Find Them: Or, A Non-Linear Reflection on the Human/Nature Divide at the Time of the Coronavirus
Note Context: Written in April 2020 in Germany, during the (prolonged) lockdown due to the Covid-19 Emergency
Bio: Stefano Rozzoni is a PhD Candidate in Transcultural Studies in Humanities at the University of Bergamo (Italy) and Justus-Liebig Universität Gießen (Germany). In his research project he wishes to engage with the study of pastoral poetry through the lens of (Critical) Posthumanism.
Style: (Unpretentiously) Creative
Fields: Media Studies, Ecocriticism, Ethics.
Author: Stefano Rozzoni
Dolphins in Venice and Where to Find Them: Or, A Non-Linear Reflection on the Human/Nature Divide at the Time of the Coronavirus
There is no doubt that we-as-humans are now living in an extra-ordinary* time. If this conclusion was not already evident before the outbreak of Covid-19, the current (health, social, political, economic, existential…) crisis has made this awareness plain to – almost – anybod(ies). The combination of the increasing number of contagions and the decrease in freedom brought about by the lockdown has revealed unexpected nuances in relation to the ways in which the concept of “schizophrenia” serves for reflecting on the world we live in.
After almost a month of being confined in my apartment, determining what is now ordinary or extra-ordinary is challenging: the continuous twisting between these two poles has fostered the uncanny feeling(s) of venturing into uncharted territories, even though going outside is, at the moment, an a priori impossibility.
Posthuman studies have long discussed the contradictions and paradoxes of the present-day world, determining a wave of critical thinking that tackles the Humanistic axioms embedded in Western thought. But if, until a few weeks ago, this concern was mostly limited to a circle of inventive minds in academia, the urge to reflect on what it means to be human has now become a much more widespread intellectual effort.
It is now not so uncommon to come across media narratives urging readers to avail of the current crisis by “radical[ly] rethink[ing] […] how our societies work, the necessity of public health care, a necessity of slowness” (1). The present condition has already become established as a watershed between the past and the future (2), which may finally integrates forms of non-human- (significant)-others in a more equal Tomorrow (3). Posthumanists cannot but be more than excited observing the ultimate collective awakening for the paradigmatic shift that they have been advocating in the last few years. However, in any self-respecting schizophrenic world(s), this tendency matches an equally intense prolongation of some – apparently ineradicable – traditional Humanistic values.
Being overwhelmingly exposed to media information since the start of the quarantine, I have come across multiple articles showing these oxymora. My interest in Ecocriticism makes me particularly inclined to spot dualistic narratives that reinforce the human/nature divide while attempting to promote a more eco-logical sensibility. In this alignment, one particular report has grabbed my attention in the last few days: dolphins swimming in Venice due to boat-traffic-free canals (4). The argument is simple: while humanity is on lockdown, non-human(ity) takes advantage of the territories (literally “take[ing] Venice back”) (5) from which it was previously evicted. As much as the idea of the natural world reclaiming what has been subtracted by humans may appear as a pleasant feeling in the time of the #FridaysForFuture, this narrative hides much more complex and
First of all, as National Geographic reported soon after the dolphin-case gained popularity, fake news abounds in social media just like the coronavirus upends life (6). No dolphins were, in fact, actually spotted in Venice. Similarly, (many) other stories about animals entering cityscapes turned out to be fictional accounts, demonstrating how the country/city dualism still plays a relent role among the long-standing tropes entertaining Western culture. Beyond issues of veracity connected to this occurrence, or the fairness of the equation “less pollutants = more favorable conditions for (nonhuman) life”, it becomes essential to reflect on the fact that arguments such as “Nature has pushed up the reset button” (7) are twofold: they also implicitly perpetuate the traditional dichotomy of Man/Nature and stress the ontological separation of the human from the nonhuman. We-as-humans-who-have-read-(at)-(least)-Rosi-Braidotti (see note A) are all well-aware of the subtle implications of this ideal.
The endurance of “naturalizing” conceptual habits of non-human others is not difficult to perceive, as well as the emphasis on a sense of separateness of the human from the nonhuman, in a moment in which their inter/intra-connectedness has never been clearer.
One (or more) question(s) can be raised spontaneously: what does Nature refer to in current news reports? What are the effects of stressing a dualistic conceptualization of Nature? How and why can this term be used? As Timothy Clark famously affirmed: “I’ve seen penguins, plutonium, pollution and pollen. But I’ve never seen Nature” (see note B). However, it is evident how today’s media eco-narratives not only make Nature visible by depicting non-human entities through practices of Othering, but they also make dolphins visible too, where they presently are not.
When one realizes that he or she is spending more time watching a digital window rather than a brick-and-mortar one, it is clear how the changing perspective that we have undergone during quarantine is not a mere quirk of scholars in Philosophy Departments.
“We are in this together” has become an(other) popular motto since the outbreak of the pandemic. (8) However, as Braidotti would add, “(but)-we-are-not-one-and-the-same”. This IS the time for rethinking what it means to be humans. Yet, while doing this, pondering on the risks of perpetuating intellectual humanistic habits and the practice of binary thinking can become an(other) way of (re)imagining a more pluralistic future of co-existence between humans and significant-others. Starting from the virus. And including dolphins too.
*While I am writing this piece, my beloved hometown Bergamo is at the center of international news for being one of the hotspots of the contagion. The suffering and the pain that is touching my famil(ies) and friends, and the many who live in this area, as well as in the rest of the world, are not forgotten. My warmest thoughts are with you all. And this is my affirmative response to this difficult, extra-ordinary time.
A. For a further critique of binary thinking, see Braidotti, Rosi. Posthuman Knowledge, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019.
B. Morton, Timothy, Realist Magic. Objects, Ontology, Causality. Open Humanities Press, 2013. 2013, p. 42.
Context: Written in 2020 in India, during the outbreak of the Coronavirus
Author: Romy Tuli
Bio: Romy Tuli is an Assistant Professor at CT University, Ludhiana. She is pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in Posthumanism.
You are me and I am you,
Hand in hand we go.
Step by step we travel,
A book and a worm are at level.
Your lips are so sweet when I kiss,
You are my pond and I am a fish.
Then the Third World War happened!
Against a Virus.
Relax darling, this is humane.
You are free, safe in my arms.
Cry cry, run run,
There is no fun.
Home stay is the safest stay,
Otherwise you have to pay.
Oh my All New Kindle;
I am not a fiddle.
I forget to bring you with me to the shore,
I’m not with you anymore.
Might be Crying for getting charged,
Your tummy might be hungry in a room dark.
Weeping I and weeping you,
I am disabled without you.
Waiting for a sunny day!
Context: Written and recorded in 2020 in Spain, during the outbreak of the Coronavirus
Author: Jaime Del Val
Fields: Health, Ethics, Philosophy
Style: This is a paper in progress. For latest updates: https://metabody.eu/covid-19-as-metabody/
COVID-19 as Metabody - Towards a new global economy of movement:of increasing social control or of radical care for our molecular entanglement with the Earth
COVID-19, the coronavirus disease emerging in late 2019 in China and becoming global pandemic in early 2020, has exposed, perhaps more than any other event in (recent) history, our entanglement between each other and the world, both at molecular and global scales, expressing both our fragilities and our alignments. Since WWII and the rise of information society it is the first pandemic that has such systemic effects of suspension of activity and economy, quarantine of entire countries and impact in almost every country a few months after its emergence, literally a WWIII. The virus and its disease don’t merely unleash a complex situation, but create an entire global ecology and process, a becoming of which we are part.
In words of Dorion Sagan we are meta-metazoa because on the one hand we are offspring of a symbiogenetic evolution where microorganisms inhabit each other in increasingly complex ways, we are a chimeric hybrid of bacteria and viruses evolving into cells of multicellular organisms, while still largely made of bacterial and viral assemblages; and on the other hand we have a planetary impact and have the capacity and obligation to reflect upon and take responsibility for that impact, as we create a sort of planetary technological hyper-organism or which we (so called humans, hegemonic or not) are part, a hypercyborg.
I will propose to think the coronavirus disease and the situation it has unleashed, its exposure of molecular and global entanglements, through the concept of metabody, where meta- means both in-between, moving across, mutating and underlying. A metabody is a field of movement relations that emerges, varies and transforms, in the balance of consistency and openness, as the universe unfolds from fluctuations. The world is made of endless metabodies/fields, relating and reciprocally transforming in multiple ways, each body is itself a complex metabody, a convergence of many fields, so is each society, or technical system or phenomenon. Every field is made of different kinds fof movements, of swarm-like rhythms, orientations and contacts in its energy-density fluctuations, some more aligned than others. Linear perspective enacted a planetary-scale metabody of relations based on fixed points of vision. Big Data systems enact a planetary scale metabody of autonomous algorithms, code and gridded infrastructures of microchips and data centres. Selfies bring together in a new way both linear perspective and Big Data profiling in social networks conforming a selfie metabody, whose economy is crucial for current algorithmic governance. Likewise a pandemia, such as the one unleashed by the virus COVID-19 can be understood as a complex and multifaceted metabody. Let’s consider some of its complexities.
First of all let’s consider viruses and how they have been source of genetic diversity as primordial means of Horizontal Genetic Transfer (perhaps the primordial source of genetic diversity) throughout evolution. Viruses are a crucial means of evolution as diversification. Viruses are quasi-life forms that need to he hosted by cells to proliferate and activate themselves, they are an in-between the living and the non-living, a meta-life form, and a means for movement of molecules and genes in excess of bacterial sex or sexual reproduction. They are complex molecular affordances and movements. Over billions of years viruses have been part of the fluctuating movement of molecular assemblages, or molecular metabodies, slowly bringing up diversity on the planet, long before plagues and pandemics started to threat human populations.
The first recorded plagues are those of Athens, when it was epicenter of trade in the Aegean and thus of unprecedented and quick movements of people, connecting, exchanging and moving across bacterial and viral ecosystems. Since then plagues and pandemics have been recurring, perhaps associated to the quick movements of people in trade and colonial societies, where immune systems and viral ecologies which had emerged over billions of years of dynamic equilibrium, have been upset by the continuous abstract-but-very-real movements of people following economic and political factors at odds with the dynamics of ecosystems, and an increasingly disruptive impact on ecosystems through seamless appropriation and invasion of territories, impact on species and their habitats, delocalization of wild species, and so forth.
COVID-19 exposes on the one hand our molecular nature and fragility in a time when the hegemonic human keeps expanding its dream to become God through technological domination and absolute control. On the other it exposes our global entanglement, related partly to the extreme amount of physical displacements in late capitalism (which run along our internet entanglement which has its own viruses and ongoing but mostly invisible cyberwar). The speed of dissemination of this physical virus – whose lethality is compared only to the “Spanish flue” of 1918-1919 killing over 50 million people- is what has created this unprecedented situation. The virus exposes the fluctuating nature of the world and the problem of trying to ignore or fix that fluctuation.
Furthermore, COVID-19 exposes our molecular fragility and our global superalignments as being radically interrelated, so that alignments allow the virus’ movement to take on a devastating effect as the molecular, biological virus connects to the viral society of speeded up media, of contagious gestures (ie.e the gestures that replicate themselves in homogenous manner, like selfies or clicking) and displacements.
The virus also exposes the systemic and economic dependencies that come to the foreground when activity is suspended in a new global war scenario where the enemy is within and across bodies, where absolutely everyone is suspect, much more than in global terrorist threats, as the virus is the one responsible, though people or States not taking measures to avoid contagion will in turn be held responsible. Responsibility becomes strangely distributed as decisions radically change, like when a country that had taken no measures suddenly imposes quarantine to its entire population and everyone is obliged to follow precautionary measures that were not at all considered one day before. First the virus is responsible, then a state, then people in the state.
The situation fluctuates radically with the propagation of the virus, whose effects are only seen with 14 days delay. It’s an invisible enemy whose potential presence and threat is expressed in the quarantine as new social condition. Meanwhile fake news spread, attention is more massively than ever in social media, markets and entire industries like tourism collapse, while online work is strengthened, fluctuations enter exponential spirals. Borders, including within European Schengen territory, are closed and new borders can appear inside countries, anywhere, as well as new monitoring of behaviours. Paternalistic and patriotic messages acquire strange associations with astonished concern and at times solidarity.
In the process one can see taken onto a new level and mode the ecologies of fear and threat that came up after 9/11 with the “war on terror”, as exposed by Brian Massumi’s concept of Ontopower, a power that tries to preempt an unknowable future reorienting movements as they emerge while disseminating an ubiquitous sense of threat where everyone is suspect. For the first time since WWII the entire planet is in a palpable state of war (besides the ongoing and mostly invisible cyberwar and the distributed wars of late capitalist exploitation) not exempt of apocalyptic undertones, with an increasing amount of countries in quarantine, against a virus which is similar to the flue, but propagates much more quickly.
Closing down borders is never enough as any person could have it inside already, we will only start to know two weeks later. The so called “missing half-second” of preconscious activity where control information systems try to redirect our attention has suddenly become a 14 days interval suspending entire populations as span of radical uncertainty where every decision will fluctuate according to the many factors being measured, including the economic impact of any decision.
The metabody of COVID-19 is in the molecular movements of the virus, and also, largely, in the state of exception, the fear and threat, the quarantine of populations, or in economic collapse. But also in new gestures of solidarity or complicitness between people (a strange one implying distance and suspicion at the same time, including for oneself as no one know if one has the virus till 14 days later), of uncertainty, and of awe and wonder at the unprecedented situation: a sense of shock, which is deep and existential, not only relative to confinement measures but to this feeling of it all being a planetary situation, a new feeling of molecular and global connectedness, of the fragility in ourselves and our systems, that pretended to be so robust.
It also exposes the intimacy of our daily gestures, implicit in every act, no particular (sexual) intimacy is needed like in HIV transmission, no suspicious gestures or behaviours. It exposes the intimacy of our molecular entanglement, much more than did HIV. Our molecular, viral intimacy is there all the time, unavoidable and evolutively necessary, echoing with McMennamin’s idea in Hypersea theory of body fluids as commons in evolution. That intimacy is indeed the source of evolution and life. Though our perspectival culture of articulate distances had made us forget that entanglement. The most usual daily movements (modes of contact and proximity) can transmit it.
A new economy of movement will thus ensue, perhaps of further distancing. Indeed some studies are already ponting to a period of 12-18 months of social distancing till the virus gets under control through a vaccine. But effects of this new scenario will probably last much longer. A Pandemics was expected, but the lethality of this one -much greater than the ones in 2008 and before, only comparable to the “Spanish flue” over a century ago (named like that because Spain was the only country which did not hide it but spoke up), is likely to alter global economies of movement much more than did 9/11 or even smartphones.
We are slow at understanding this molecular ecology and its movements, since old ontologies had ignored our molecular swarming for too long, we have difficulty in understanding the ways of minimizing contagion while avoiding paranoia, as we don’t understand how our viral entanglement operates, its unavoidability and indeed necessity, but also its major channels of dissemination, which are not always obvious. In consequence many people (at least in less disciplined Mediterranean countries like Spain) tend to ignore the invisible enemy till hard measures are imposed from above. Or paranoia abounds.
This invisible enemy within, across and in constant mutation and dissemination (meta-), relates to endless other factors like heat or sun radiation, human concentrations in winter, humidity and moist in the body and the concentration of globules in our immune system, and so forth.
“In this strange and irregular war that where we have had to live or fight, we are all soldiers” said the Chief of State of Defense in Spain, a soldier whose discipline is in avoiding social contact. Meanwhile the search for vaccines, antivirals and immune system aids is the triple molecular battlefield in the laboratory war. A new sense of care appears as health systems are overflown and one needs to avoid social contact in order to avoid potential contagion to oneself and to others, as one might be positive without having symptoms, whereby the virus kills more the elderly and vulnerable, but not only, anyone could fall, but not everyone can be taken care of by the overwhelmed health system.
Attempts to understand the molecular movement of COVID-19 and generate a vaccine are still unfruitful several months after it’s appearance, and it may still take a year for it to arrive. Meanwhile the entire global economy is suspended and entering a potentially severe recession whose future is utterly uncertain as the virus could still disseminate in unpredictable ways. First the production machine of China was paralyzed, now the consumption machine of Europe and perhaps the US are suspended. China is leaving its state of exception and quarantine while Italy and Spain, and gradually all Europe (as of March 17th) is entering it, and also the US, many countries in the Americas, Africa and Middle east, or Russia, after going more strongly through Korea and Iran. All major events cancelled, only Japan, who apparently stabilized the virus soon, still doesn’t cancel the Olympic games. It is the rich countries that seem to be attacked now, perhaps due precisely to the connection of the virus with globalized displacements. But molecular movements have no logic, they swarm and fluctuate in always unpredictable ways.
Along the way we could develop immunity, and the virus could mutate or it could become seasonal like the flue, while vaccinations could start to appear, and new dependencies on pharmaceuticals, also part of this new metabody that will also involve new, even more articulate distancies between bodies.
The radical fluctuation of the virus’s movements seem to accelerate exponentially as they relate to the superalignments of our Age of Algorithms, or Algoricene, where bodies quickly displace along planetary-scale trajectories, and impose on ecosystems endless disruptive interventions which upset their dynamic equilibrium. These interventions may have triggered the appearance of the virus on stage in the first place. “A number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19” says The Guardian. “Is it possible, then, that it was human activity, such as road building, mining, hunting and logging, that triggered the Ebola epidemics in Mayibout 2 and elsewhere in the 1990s and that is unleashing new terrors today?”And David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times. “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”
Maybe we need to slow down? Is Nature taking revenge for our accelerated destruction? Is this a restoration of the balance, a return to the indeterminate, fluctuating source?
It’s time, not only to slow down our accelerated displacements, but to take radical care for ecosystems as the dynamic matrix of life, ours included, and thus also the source for any economy and future. The greedy exploitation of the Earth on behalf of Earth destroyers is likely to enter a spiral of increasing selfdestruction. But what should be matter of concern is how the perception itself of the Earth as matter for exploitation was created, over centuries of colonialism, of perspectival perceptions that place an observer outside of the world, which becomes reducible to seamless quantification, appropriation and devastation.
Slowing down is just a start along the way to regain a richer embodied experience after millennia of atrophy imposed by multiple alignments with technologies of domination of which the smartphones in our pockets are a recent expression. These have impoverished experience to the point where only accumulation, domination and destruction matters. Earth destroyers are the deeply disabled people whose experience is impoverished to the point where they lost all sense of body, all proprioception, and thus all sense of deep connection to a world.
One century ago the Spanish flue killed around 50 million people, but humans kill around 5 trillion animals per year (100.000 times more), and do so in ways that -quite opposed to how animals kill each other- completely disrupt the dynamics of ecosystems.
Our health and the planet’s health are entangled. May the pandemic unleash a change in sensitivity?
Some may say that we are all Earth destroyers, as soon as we catch a plane, drive a car, or are engaged in any kind of consumption, that slowing down is not an option, that no activity could be done that doesn’t contribute to the impact, that there is no way out. Or that online activities (or even social control) are the welcome solution to work and social interaction in the new world scenario of the pandemic. One could say that this very article participates in those economies, of digital control and of unsustainable planetary impacts. Let’s remember that data centers and digital infrastructures are also posing a heavy ecological problem due to the amount of energy consumed and also the materials used, such as coltan, linked to wars exploitation but also waste and obsolescence of equipment. But unsustainable is also the social ecology of Facebook likes as implicit social credit, of selfie smiles and emoticons, of massive homogenization of affects, desires and sexes.
But it’s always a question of thresholds. One of the thresholds lies in the little care that Nation States of democratic countries have for the respect of global ecosystems. Will COVID-19 unleash a new era concern, if it is shown that unleashing of virus is linked to anthropocenic activity? Will this affect the taking of more radical measures for having the equilibrium of ecosystems as primordial criteria for economic decisions? Maybe even in less democratic countries like China? Can this also reverse the expected tendency of increased social distance and control, towards a return to the body, to analogue embodied experiences that afford means for sustainability no only in terms of ecology and economy, but of social life and its richness? Only a rich, diverse and varying experience is sustainable. Can slowing down and going back to the body become new mottos for global policies, and a gradual systemic change?
In excess of the economic crisis that may ensue, this situation entails an unprecedented change in our becoming and awareness as metabodies, of our molecular and global entanglement, our fragility (and the consistency of responses, at times hard, coercive), and our being part of fluctuation movements and systemic dependencies.
Maybe the virus, in exposing all of this, can teach us about the problematic systemic aspects of current society, though it’s unlikely that this will entail positive systemic change. The change is more likely to be in the sense of new unprecedented means of social control, of fear and threat ecologies, increase of online work (more vulnerable to digital viruses or the threats of cyberwar, of surveillance and algorithmic governance), increase of distance between bodies and dependency on the chemical choreographies of pharmaceuticals and surveillance, and meanwhile increased precarity of the already precarious who are losing their jobs in the process.
At the same time the stage for the (no longer science-fiction) scenarios of potential and more severe bacteriological and viral war is set. This is just the mild beginning, the introduction, which however exposes that reality is always already more advanced and complex than any sci-fi movie (no matter how much the latter format our expectations and prepare the stage). Reality is always re-ontologizing itself, plastic as it is, moving beyond the existing ontologies, concepts, established ways of thinking and understanding (which one often sees reflected in Science-fiction narratives). The realities (movements) of the autonomous algorithms in our smartphone apps, or now COVID-19, are challenging radically our concepts, practices, systems, economies and life styles. We need to invent new ones.
After the cold war, AIDS, the “war on terror”, the ongoing and mostly invisible cyberwar, and the visibility over past years of digital surveillance and control (from Snowden to Cambridge Analytica), coronavirus crosses a new threshold in scenarios of war and domination, but also of collective mutation. This mutation is (and always was) not only genetic, but mostly epigenetic: relative to our habits, affects, media, our movements in general (which have epigenetic effects but also wider mutations in ourselves and our ecosystems, our affects, neurons, metabolism, hormones and other chemical bodily fields).
Meanwhile new situations keep unfolding creatively. These days in Madrid the city sounds at times more lively than ever from my roof house terrace when people play music or play across windows, confined in the houses, though many of these occurrences are soon appropriated, if not a priori preempted by the viral behaviours of social media. The applauses to the health system personnel resonate in the empty streets at 8pm every day. And a strange complicity appears between dogkeepers as we go out into the street, dogs being perhaps the only remainder of liveliness in the empty city, the exception within the state of exception.
The virus exposes, more radically than cyborgs or even companion species, a posthuman condition where both our evolutive molecular nature and our all-too-human and more-than-human technological alignments enter a radical spiral of reciprocal transformation. The virus threatens the open consistency of our bodies as it expands with unprecedented speed due to global displacements along daily gestures. But the response should not be in trying to retain a holy human nature that perhaps never existed, rather it’s about understanding much better the ways in which life and evolution (and with them “human nature”) emerge always in relation and need a balance of consistency and openness to sustain their movement of variation. Evolution is a business of slow molecular, bacterial, viral swarms.
A society that over millennia increasingly imposes on the planet extreme alignments and abstract dynamics that detach themselves from the biosphere’s dynamics and impose themselves on it disruptively (while forgetting its molecular-bacterial heritage and substrate), needs to learn that the human is always meta-human, always relational and emerging from and with fields of molecular movements that will return whenever they are neglected.
This (hyper)human, all-too-human (transhumanistic) society has favoured planetary-scale alignments of rationalization and quantification by imposing atrophy on bodies and proprioceptions: the body’s sense of internal motion as tissue fluctuation. Bodies aligned with fixed points of vision expand their rationalising power on the globe, while becoming appendixes of dynamic networks of algorithms, at the expense of reducing their proprioceptions. But its through proprioception that we also sense the world, and ourselves as entangled with it. I have no doubt that it is this millennia old proprioceptive atrophy that underlies the radical insensitivity in turn underlying planetary destruction, which is also self-destruction.
Domination is always reduction, imposing movements on others, and paradoxically this implies self-destruction. Evolution is mutation and radical cooperation, plasticity, reciprocal transformation. The virus, an ancient evolutionary mechanism, suddenly irrupts into these networks of domination and delocalization disrupting them in turn.
In states of confinement and of distance or isolation with others as we are experiencing today, I invite people to explore their proprioception: a human body is a swarm of 360 joints whose combinatory is infinite, and what one feels is more the blurry fluctuation of tissue tensions and torsions in between, which go down to swarms of billions of proteins folding in our cells’ cytoskeletons (and their atoms decaying down to quantum fluctuations) every time a muscle contracts. Proprioception is also integrating every multisensory input in the body’s capacity to move and unfold an endless variation of its proprioceptive field. Through the variations of our tissues we also know the world. I touch the bread to feel its consistency and it has already become part of my proprioception. The proprioceptive field emerges over billions of years of molecular, bacterial and viral movements and ongoing mutation and is the source of our Body Intelligence or BI, a self-organising and plastic capacity to move and sense, an expression of our self-organising molecular complexity, of which viruses are also part.
Regaining a sense of the richness and complexity of our proprioceptive fields should be part of a process of slowing down and displacing less, of caring more about ourselves and our surroundings. Let the body sense its movement, and sense the world though it, unfolding like an ameba or swarm, let its complexity unfold in different improvisation practices (dancing, drawing, playing an instrument, in conversation…).
In this year (of the 10th anniversary of the Metahumanist Manifesto), let’s unfold a meta-humanistic debate, and along with it metabodily practices.
In times of confinement and separation, I propose that instead of becoming increasingly subject to perspectival nodes of atrophy and control in a society of screens, smartphones, porn, TV, Facebook, fake news and ecologies of fear, let instead our proprioceptions, and our dog-friends, be source for reinventing and enriching our experience.
Dearest All, we hope this post finds you well. This time is so intense, but can also bring deep insights. Please, do not forget that you are not alone and that we are in this together. We can re-access our lives from this condition of interconnectedness and re-envision our posthuman condition. Aware of the fact that our existence is fragile, we need to focus on what really matters. This is why we are inviting anyone interested to send us reflections on the posthuman and the coronavirus for our blog: http://www.posthumans.org/blog We have started this blog in order to offer a place for critical and generative reflections on the posthuman that apply to this historical moment. Entries can be short and long (no more than 2.500 words); all writing styles are welcome (autobiographical, essayistic, creative and so on). Language should be non-offensive and respectful. If you are interested, please send us your entry at NYposthuman[at]gmail.com adding in the title of the email: "Entry - Blog". Our editors will revise your material and contact you in a timely manner.
On a connected note, we would like to remind everyone to be extremely cautious (i.e. avoiding close social contacts; washing your hands, nose, items etc.). In this challenging time, do not forget to take time to rest and calm your mind daily.
Sending You All So Much Energy, Healing and Appreciation
Context: Written in 2020 in NYC, during the outbreak of the Coronavirus
Style: Brief Commentary
Author: Francesca Ferrando
In this delicate, sensitive moment for us, humans, dealing with the emergent expansion of coronavirus in our planet, I would like to send my Love and Connection to All. Yesterday I woke up with this words in my mind: "Be the Bindi in the Cosmic Eye". It gave me some serenity; it was beautiful. Peace, Well Being and Appreciation to All, Francesca
Context: Written in 2020 in China, during the outbreak of the Coronavirus
Style: Autobiographical Writing
Fields: Health, Ethics, Memory, Philosophy, Nietzsche
Author: Professor Thomas Steinbuch
Bio: Professor Steinbuch is a Nietzschean philosopher and co-founder of the World Posthuman Society; he lives and teaches in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, P.R. China.
Outrunning COVID-19: The Race to Stay Human
We watched it closing in on us, Fistone and I, the day at the mall he helped me set up my new Huawei tablet. It was late January and COVID-19 was on the move. I was concerned that the battery on my older smartphone would fail and that I would be out of communication on WeChat and that I needed a more reliable device if we were entering a crisis. WeChat is a social media platform everyone uses, and we depend on our phones for everything. We transfer money with it and pay for things with an app called Alipay, which was introduced in Hangzhou by Alibaba, and now ATM’s that dispense hard currency are hard to find. Digital life is all well and good, but not in the case in which your phone dies and there are no shops open where you can replace it, and my OPPO is six years old and sometimes twitchy about recharging.
We were in a mall a few bus stops from the campus of our univeristy, since shuttered and to remain shuttered for the foreseeable as I write, and we watched as security guards put up tables at the entrance to take our temperature before letting us in. The whole temperature thing scared me to death, because what if you are just sweaty or have a slight cold? The temperature monitors are everywhere: what if I get turned back at the grocery store? Last year I had a bad flu and I did not take penicillin just in order to build up my immunity, so I was pretty confident that even if I caught a case of COVID-19 it would probably be a mild case. It was not the disease that scared me: that would just be a mano-e-mano situation, a fair fight. What scared me was getting tripped up in the prevention measures due to some misunderstanding and being reduced to the inhumanity of a suspected sack of viral infection. I came close.
It hit at the worst possible time. We were all caught flatfooted. Everything shuts down from the Lunar New Year, from January 15 to February 10 this year when the Lantern Boat Festival was scheduled. I am usually pretty well stocked up on the OTC meds I can get at the pharmacy but I was running out of something I use to control psoriasis. A serious psoriasis outbreak is nothing to be trifled with, and it is very unpredictable. Not to mention the possibility of psoriatic fever! Stress, change of diet, overall change of routine, lots of things seem to trigger it. Well, I was afraid the pharmacy would flat out close – it did, eventually -- but I got there on a day it was still open. It was a rainy day and I had a woolen cap on and a Safari hat over it just to be sure I did not catch chill, one to keep warm, one to keep dry. The pharmacist did not allow me in, so I just showed her the empty tube of what I needed. I took off my hat and cap to let her take my temperature with the digital thermometer, but my head must have been warm – which is the point of wearing two hats – and my temperature was 38.3C or something like that, too high. The pharmacist got very nervous and began to call for the volunteer guards at the end of the street. I think she was going to insist that I be taken hospital and tested for the virus. They did not hear her, for some blessed reason, and she went back into the store for my meds. When she came back she scanned me again and my temperature must have dropped in the few minutes I had my hat off and she let me go. When I got home I took my temperature with my trusty mercury thermometer: 37.2. Not a problem.
Fistone – a computer savvy kid from Zambia with excellent Chinese language skills – sent me a rogue video made by one of the citizen journalists who was documenting events and posting on WeChat. We read about two citizen journalists doing that; both have since vanished, fate unknown. The one Fistone sent showed people suspected of having symptoms being forcibly taken from their apartments. An entire family was being drug out and crammed into an airless stainless steel box on a flatbed ambulance truck – you could hear the little girl screaming – and hauled off to the hospital to be tested. That was in Wuhan. But then, what else was to be done? As I write, the number of reported infections in Hubei Province where Wuhan city is, is 75,000. Here in Hangzhou City we have had fewer than 200 infections. If there is a takeaway from this whole event that deserves our attention it is the sad fact that the people of Hubei Province were subjected to lockdown as the virus ravaged them from street to street, subjected to house by house calls to be screened for symptoms and possibly dragged from their homes. All so that the rest of us could be safe, so that the rest of us could outrun it, so that the rest of us could cling a little while longer to the fragile thing we call our humanity that we know now, if we did not before, can be stripped from us as quickly as taking a turn on a dime. I watched another video showing a women on the balcony of her high-rise apartment building, so typical in China, banging a pot with a wooden spoon for attention for which there were no ears in the deserted streets below as she wailed out a lament that her husband was lying in bed and could not breathe and she could not get help. “Fight me COVID-19, fight me, you don’t scare me one bit, I’ll break your back!” That I can do, win or lose, I have my dignity. What scares me, rather, is loss of my humanity, and that is right up close to me now and it seems to me that it has always stalked me, and I realize that I have never really known how to fight to keep it even in the best of times. There will be many, many deaths from the virus and much, much illness. Collaterally, all 60 million inhabitants of Hubei Province will be changed for good, and as we are learning from the study of epigenetics and the encoding of trauma and its trans-generational conservation, what they are enduring will leaves traces in their descendants. All that is baked in the cake, as they say. They surrendered up their humanity so that we could keep ours. The world should never forget the tremendous debt owed to them.
Later that day Fistone sent me another video, this time one of spraying the streets with disinfectant in a neighborhood about 10 minutes away from us. In my neighborhood, we were issued a pass that allows us to leave for two hours at a time to get groceries, but I have not gone out because the neighborhood where they were spraying is in that direction and I am still stocked up, so I decided to just wait. Fistone is a student and they are in lock-down in their dormitories and have to ask the dormitory monitor to order out for them. I go down to the gate at the bottom of the street every day and sit on a bench in the food court and report back to him on whatever I can observe that would give a clue when the students will be allowed out. I also report back every day to Xiao Ting who runs a coffee shop and bakery I used to go to every morning from 8AM until 1PM and sit and write. She is stranded in the country because she left Hangzhou for the Lunar New Year and now she cannot get back in the city. What a pleasure it was to sit at my usual table in Xiao Ting’s and have a latte café and scribble down the endless message being transmitted into my brain! Her baked goods are too sweet for my taste and I would never buy any and I would feel bad nursing an 18 Yuan cup of coffee for five hours, so I got into the habit of buying her chocolate eggs containing Walt Disney figures inside, Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, another with Mickey and Minnie, made for kids actually, but it brightened her day. That was our happy little interaction, now a distant precious memory. I am an eye for her too, and report on whether any of the businesses on her street have opened as she is running out of money and anxious to get back to work. As I said, I stocked up on food and water before we were quarantined, but no fresh fruit, so my landlord helps out by regularly handing me baskets of fruit. She is a hand for me. We are all living in pieces here.
First thing in the morning is not my best time of day, I am impatient and flit from one thing to the next and try to do too many things at once. I know this and so these days especially I was trying to be careful first thing in the morning, but my bad habit of impatience still caught up to me. I decided to take my temperature as soon as I go up just to be sure it was accurate last time and that I was not facing a psoriasis flare up. It was, 37.1, which is just ducky, but I thought, “wait, let me keep the thermometer in a while longer just in case”, and I went into the kitchen to boil some water and have orange peel tea with honey -- as I had fresh oranges, courtesy of my landlord. I poured the honey into my cup and scooped up a dollop that had run down the side of the jar with my finger and took the thermometer out with my other hand, and then, I don’t what happened, but as I repositioned the thermometer in my mouth with my now slippery fingers from the honey, out it flew onto my super hard kitchen floor typical in China and broke. I quickly donned my respirator which was on the kitchen table and looked for it, but I only found the stem, which I quickly deposited into an empty coke bottle and capped it, but, the mercury reservoir had broken and I could not find it. “Idiot, idiot, now you have a mercury release in your kitchen, tiny carcinogenetic droplets you can’t see are floating around in the air and now you are pushed into one remaining safe room. Bravo!” Toxicity seemed inescapable. Just like wearing two hats to the pharmacy against getting a chill in the rain got me into trouble, so did being scrupulous about taking my temperature. The protective routines I was developing were ending up having their own lethality. But I still won the race that day: I have a second thermometer.
Anti-American sentiment is running high, another way I feel my humanity slipping away. Some international papers ran stories about how COVID-19 was genetically engineered by US scientists to weaken China’s economy and earn money for pharmaceutical companies, and they got some attention here. The next wave of Anti-American sentiment came in the form of anger that the US was so slow in getting supplies here. It was not until February 20 that China received the 16 tons of masks and protective suits we promised them, and they still have not seen a nickel of the $100 million promised in aid. I was sent some very anti-American material on both occasions. But hold on a second! In late December I gave a presentation on the "Marx-Freud Synthesis and The Etiology of Fascism" at Zhejiang University, and I took the position that the rise of Donald Trump shows that liberal democracy cannot contain fascism and that Marxism is the only effective address to it. I, of all people, I felt, should not be lumped in with Americans who support Donald Trump: “Not my President” I bleated and bleated; “Judge me as an individual,” I implored. But to no avail. It is terrifying: first reduced to inhumanity by Nature, and now the echo of that reduction in and amongst ourselves as the challenge to individuality as inauthentic rears up, and indifferent alikeness in being American all that is allowed to be. The other dehumanizing pathogens that afflict us and that are held at bay in normal times are on scene and rallying around COVID-19 to flatten the landscape of being human even further.
The internet is pretty much inaccessible in China without a VPN, and I pay $99.00 annually for the service and it takes it mission seriously. But, China regularly escalates blocks that cause my VPN to crash. There were so many cycles of new blocks and issuances of updated apps beginning around National Holiday in October, but things started to stabilize around December and to my surprise, remained so even as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Well, Philosophy in Review contacted me because they wanted me to make a small change in my review of Francesca Ferrando's book Philosophical Posthumanism because it was due to come out. And I thought, "let me get to this right away," because I know I am tempting fate waiting on it since I cannot access the Philosophy in Review submissions form without my VPN. So I did the revision and everything went fine. Not twenty four hours later, my VPN crashed and it stayed down for week, past the date the review was scheduled to appear. Beat you by a day COVID-19! World still intact.
There is concern that people will try to conceal symptoms and pharmacies are not allowed to sell cold or flu medications so that people will have themselves checked for COVID-19 at the hospital. Here in Hangzhou, we are not called upon door to door to check for symptoms, but whenever we go to buy something or pick up a package, our temperature is monitored, and sooner or later we all have to buy groceries. Same idea, just with a softer touch. Villages have lot of autonomy in how they choose to regulate who can come in and who can leave and for how long. One village is very strict and the gate is manned by armed men bearing a traditional Chinese weapon, a fierce halberd called a Guan Dao. The rule in that village is uncompromising: anyone caught deliberately spreading the virus will be shot. I am not sure that they could actually do that, but that is not my point. We do not do well in relating to Nature: that idea could be taken as the summa summarum of Nietzsche’s work. Unable to really understand how COVID-19 is spread and helpless to stop it, unable to endure helplessness in the face of it, we create the anodyne of finding something to blame. Because we don’t understand the agency of the virus, we imagine it is spread by something we can understand: it is spread by deliberateness, and deliberateness should be punished. Nietzsche said that without the narcotic of finding to blame we would soon go mad because it is the main relief value of the psychology of vengefulness, which we have yet to make any effort at all to control directly. This is why in his autobiography he says that in cases in which he is wronged whilst being in the right and so disposed to seek blame and punishment for the wrongdoer, he bites down hard on himself and strives for the discipline of blaming himself, although innocent, for the other’s wrongdoing, thus to elide the other’s wrongdoing from the world, and with it, anything to blame and punish. Blaming one's innocence is quite beyond metaphysical good and evil. As perfectly innocent, Christ is most liable to be wronged and so signifies finding to blame cocked back to a hair trigger. But a god come to earth, a Dionyisan god, should take upon himself the heaviest guilt as an act of self-mastery of the compulsion to blame and punish. But we are very far from that capability indeed, and while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the measures being taken in China – it has been a fantastic success, they bought the world time, just as the WHO stated – we are taking these measures as human beings, and that means an overlay of the all-too human, an overlay of the authoritarian compulsion to monitor, control, make obey, and of the vengeful compulsion to blame and punish. It is hard to judge whether everything happening is objectively necessary or whether other things that have a strange provenance are also on hand, and it is these other things that frighten me so. I am obeying instructions, I am being responsible and not deliberately trying to spread a lethal virus certainly, but it spreads anyway. It is not spreading as disobedience to be brought under control, or as deliberate wrongdoing that deserves to be punished. It just is.
To be continued.
In this specific historical moment, we have launched this blog to share our thoughts and feelings on the topic of "Posthumanism and Conflict Resolution". Please, feel free to contribute with personal, social, academic and/or artistic reflections. Entries can be short and long, both are fine. This is conceived as an open platform to share our feelings and ideas on the topic of the posthuman in the 21st Century. We need your voice: we are making a change, together.
Context: Written in 2015 during the Syrian War and just after the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Style: Affective Writing
Fields: Politics, Praxis, Affect, Memory
Author: Dr. Francesca Ferrando
IF I DIE..
All day I am hearing military planes passing over our home in Queens, New York City (US). How can I write or think when the sound of war is so close.. Then I read about the two Moroccan cousins behind the Parisian attacks. She blew herself after saying: "He is not my boyfriend". Many memories of my youth in Italy, many friends from Morocco: they were kind, and wise, and wild, and had to live in a society in which biases against them were way too common. Then I remembered being in Paris after the revolt in the banlieue, feeling the tension in the air. This situation does not come out of the blue, it has been building for decades until it exploded. The answer is not violence, is not war. This is the ghost of anger, and it will come back again if we do not look at the whole picture..
IF DESTINY BRINGS ME TO A LOCATION WHERE SOMEONE PLACES A BOMB AND I DIE, PLEASE DO NOT USE MY NAME TO KILL OTHER PEOPLE, I DO NOT WANT ANY REVENGE. INSTEAD, KEEP BUILDING PEACE, DIALOGUE AND UNDERSTANDING. DO NOT LET ANYONE DOWN, TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT. THIS IS MY WISH. THANKS.
I send my love to my French family, my Italian family, my European family, my American family, my Moroccan family, my Arab family, my Persian family, my Jewish family, my Hindu family, my Buddhist family, my Chinese family, my Earth family.. We are all wise people in wise places. We just need to start again. We need to trust again. We need to mourn together all these deaths in Syria, France, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, USA, Europe etc. We need to connect, to talk, to feel truly sorry that we let our species get to this point. No life is more important than others. Each human being has to be respected, each culture, each country. Only this way we can build trust, peace and our posthuman futures. Violence leads towards more violence, in a spiral with no survivors. We need to build trust, hope and empathy. All the great books of the past say that, all religions say that, all wise philosophers say that. We are wise and compassionate beings. Let's start.
TOGETHER. WITH HOPE. WITH TRUST. LET'S START. NOW, LET'S GET READY AND START.. THIS IS: OUR POSTHUMAN FUTURE.
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