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Posthuman Ethics in the Anthropocene

Organizing institution
Utrecht University, Faculty of Humanities (UU)
Course code
Course fee (incl. housing)
€ 500
Advanced master level

This course offers an introduction to contemporary debates around posthumaninsm and the so-called ‘posthuman turn’, as well as Rosi Braidotti’s brand of critical posthuman theory. The course will explore the extent to which a posthuman approach displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject, as well as the binary human/non-human distinction on which such unity is postulated. Starting from the assumption that we find ourselves in the era of the ‘Anthropocene’, the course explores different aspects of posthuman ethics, stressing the productive potential of the posthuman condition and advocating the ethics of affirmation.

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The field of posthuman scholarship is in full expansion. The posthuman turn is triggered by the convergence of anti-humanism on the one hand and anti-anthropocentrism on the other. Anti-humanism focusses on the critique of the Humanist ideal of ‘Man’ as the universal representative of the human, while anti-anthropocentrism criticizes species hierarchy and advances ecological justice. Both these strands enjoy strong support, but they refer to different genealogies and traditions. This course rest son the French philosophical tradition of critical Spinozism, which defends a monistic Life philosophy based on non-dialectical processes and is best represented by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. This course explores the interconnection between the posthuman predicament and the condition of the Anthropocene. It argues for the need to develop a more ethical and more complex relationship to our planetary dimension and to our relationship to non-human others, both animals, plants and technological artefacts. The Anthropocene as a concept was coined in 2001 by Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, Paul Crutzen, to describe our current geological era in terms of human impact upon the sustainability of the planet. It was officially adopted as a scientific term by the International Geological Association in Cape Town in August 2016 and its official starting date has been set at 1950, the dawn of the nuclear era. Posthuman critical theory argues for the pertinence of posthuman ethics as a way of re-framing the question of life in the Anthropocene, striking a balance between vulnerability and affirmation.

Background reading :
• R. Braidotti (2013).The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen and John R. McNeill. 2002: “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?”

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Day 1: Introduction to the posthuman predicament in the Anthropocene (Braidotti, Hlavajova and Dement)
Focus: A selected analysis of theoretical discourses about the Anthropocene, as the geological era where humans are having a lasting negative effect upon the planet. How useful is it scientifically? Does it enhance a collective sense of ecological responsibility and thus build our ethical agency and political consciousness? How credible is to re-create a new sense of pan-human inter-connection based on the fear of extinction? How do a posthuman sensibility turn into the need or a new ethical awareness ?
Main Reading :
R. Braidotti and M. Hlavajova: ‘Introduction”in The Posthuman Glossary. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
Haraway D. 2015. ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Cthuluscene: Making Kin’. In: Environmental Humanities, 6: 159-65.
Parikka, Jussi. 2015. The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Day 2: Environmental Ethics Revisited (Braidotti, Dement and Dolphijn)
Focus: The field of environmental ethics has been growing since the 1970’s and has known several phases. In this session we will focus on contemporary developments in both theory and ecological activism. Special emphasis will be placed on the intersection between western environmentalism, indigenous Land Rights movements and the power of digital technologies. How do these new social movements illuminate the nature-culture continuum, which has been on the theoretical agenda since the 1970’s ? Special attention will be given to neo-Spinozist monistic philosophy and to process ontologies.
Main Reading:
Guattari, Felix. 2000. The Three Ecologies. London: The Athlone Press.
Donna Haraway. 1990. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: science, technology, and socialist
feminism in the 1980s.” In: Simians, Cyborgs and Women. (London: Free Association Press)
Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Chapters 1 and 8.

Day 3: The Ethics of Art Practices in the Anthropocene (Hjlavajova and Dement )
Focus: This day is about the interconnection between posthuman scholarship and artistic-curatorial practice. What kind of research is artistic and curatorial practice? Which are its assumed subjects and presumed object-matters ? In an era that is increasingly defined by the vitality of non-human agency, what new parallels are emerging between theory, science and the arts ? What methodological and political alliances do we need to sustain in order to co-create robust conceptual and experimental terminologies that may be adequate to the complexity of our times?
Main Reading:
Heather Davis & Etienne Turpin. 2015. “Art & Death: Lives Between the Fifth Assessment & the Sixth Extinction” (introduction). In: H. Davis, E. Turpin (eds.). Art in the Anthropocene. Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. (London: Open Humanities Press).

Day 4: Borders, Migration, Cyber-security. (Braidotti and Dement)
Focus: the extent to which digital mediation has become the new public sphere. What are the social, legal, ethical and political issues that have come to occupy the centre of the public debate in relation to the digital sphere? What is the role of governments, corporations, the military and the global media in setting this agenda? What does it mean to be ‘digital citizens’ and ‘digital activists’?
Main Reading:
Sandro Mezzadra: ‘Lampedusa’in : R. Braidotti and M. Hlavajova: The Posthuman Glossary. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
Parikka, Jussi. 2015. ‘Materiality. Grounds of Media and Culture’, in: A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Mbembe, A. 2003. “Necropolitics”. In: Public Culture 15(1), pp. 11-40.

Day 5: Posthuman Ethics between Vulnerability and Affirmation (Braidotti)
Focus: the impact of digital technologies upon the techniques of surveillance of the social space, border areas, and war zones. What is the object of study in relation to a culture of security, surveillance, counter-terrorism and the militarization of the social space? As our war weaponry becomes more independent of direct human control, as in the case of drones, what models of resistance can be offered? To what an extent does the emphasis on computational systems enhance posthuman subjectivity as resistance ?
Main Reading:
Chapter 10: “Powers of affirmation”, in Braidotti, Rosi. (2011). Nomadic Theory. The Portable Rosi
Braidotti . New York: Columbia University Press.
Rosi Braidotti and Paul Gilroy (2016): “Introduction”in : Conflicting Humanities. London : Bloomsbury Academic.


Rosi Braidotti (B.A. Hons. Australian National University, 1978; PhD Cum Laude, Université de Paris, Panthéon-Sorbonne, 1981; Senior Fulbright Scholar, 1994; Honorary Degree ‘Philosophiae Doctrix Honoris Causa’, University of Helsinki, 2007; Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion, 2005; Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 2009; Member of Academia Europaea, 2014) is Distinguished University Professor and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. Her books include Patterns of Dissonance, Polity Press, 1991; Nomadic Subjects, Columbia University Press, 1994 and 2011a (second ed.); Metamorphoses, Polity Press, 2002; Transpositions, Polity Press, 2006; La philosophie, lá où on ne l’attend pas, Larousse, 2009; Nomadic Theory. The Portable Rosi Braidotti, Columbia University Press, 2011b and The Posthuman, Polity Press, 2013. Since 2009 she is a board member of CHCI (Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes). For more information please check www.rosibraidotti.com.

Maria Hlavajova is founding artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands since 2000. She is also currently leading the project FORMER WEST (2008–2014), which she initiated and developed as a research, education, publication, and exhibition undertaking, realized through an international collaborative effort involving a dense network of researchers and art institutions. In 2011 Hlavajova organized the project of the Roma Pavilion in the framework of the 54th Venice Biennale entitled Call the Witness, and in 2007 she curated the three-part project Citizens and Subjects, the Dutch contribution to the 52nd Venice Biennale, which included a new video installation by Aernout Mik in the Dutch Pavilion, a critical reader (Citizens and Subjects: The Netherlands, for example, co-edited with Rosi Braidotti and Charles Esche), and a series of lectures, workshops, residencies, and master classes (Citizens and Subjects: Practices and Debates). Hlavajova has organized numerous exhibitions and projects at BAK including: Lawrence Weiner: Dicht Bij, 2010; Sanja Iveković: Urgent Matters, 2009 (a two-part exhibition at BAK and the Van Abbemuseum); The Return of Religion and Other Myths, 2008–2009; and many others. Hlavajova lives and works in Amsterdam and Utrecht. For more information please check http://www.formerwest.org/Team/MariaHlavajova

Tags: posthuman, post-humanism, post-anthopocentrism, anthropocene, affirmative ethics, eco-sophies, nature-cultures, environmental ethics, cyber-ethics, deleuze, process ontologies, monistic philosophies, cyber studies, security and surveillance, digital mediation, contemporary arts, curatorial practices, indigenous epistemologies, borders, migration and mobility, computational turn, militarization of the social, necro-politics

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Prof. Rosi Braidotti


This interdisciplinary course is aimed at research-minded advanced master and PhD students with a critical and curious intellectual disposition; post-docs in the Humanities and Arts practices; starting researchers but also practitioners and media activists. A strong background in at least one of the following disciplines is required: critical theory, Continental philosophy, gender studies, media and technology studies, social and political theory, postcolonial and race studies, cultural studies.


To provide an introduction to contemporary critical scholarship about the posthuman, the Anthropocene and ethics in the French Continental philosophical tradition through the exploration of debates about contemporary subjectivity, globalization and power, and the politics of affirmation.


participants of the course are expected to have read compulsory texts for tutorials and lectures before the course. They are also expected to actively take part in tutorials, prepare questions and discussion points for plenary sessions, both the morning ones following Braidotti’s lectures and the closing plenaries after the afternoon tutorials. A special emphasis will be placed on participants’ contribution to the panels and the plenary discussions.


• € 500 - Course + course materials + housing
• € 300 - Course + course materials

Your application should include:
- Motivation for your application (submit through your account)
- Curriculum vitae (submit through your account)
- Recent set of transcripts (marks/grades) in English, German, French or in Dutch for Dutch students (submit through your account)
- One letter of reference letter

Whenever possible the applications will be evaluated as they come, and applicants will be informed about the results accordingly. However, due to a large amount of applications, we might not always be able to provide a speedy evaluation and response. At the latest, the final results will be known one month after the submission deadline.

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Utrecht Summer School doesn't offer scholarships for this course.


Gry Ulstein
E: BraidottiAssistant.gw@uu.nl

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Deadline for registration: 01 July 2017

Application closed