Posthumanist Grammar 1.2

After reading “First Principle of a Posthumanist Approach to Grammar,” Steven Hopkins mentioned to me that “it sounds like a posthuman grammar aims to be a universal grammar that humans just happen to also participate in.” That’s an important observation, so I wanted to address it before moving on to speculations about other principles.

One of the purposes of a posthumanist approach to grammar is to delay or move beyond the types of value judgments that we see in traditional humanist approaches (more on these later). As a radical approach, a posthumanist approach invites us to move beyond the categories of human/nonhuman. In this regard, a posthumanist approach to grammar attempts to widen the scope of communicative possibilities, even to an infinite degree. How, then, is this not a universalist approach?

This is a difficult question, one that raises an important ethical choice. Taking a universalist approach, one could begin to see all communicative acts as equal, a vision which would lead to critical powerlessness. On the other hand, taking a universalist approach, one could easily start making hegemonic value judgments based upon assumptions about what posthumanism hopes to achieve. In other words, one could use the radical category of posthumanism to attempt to create a different, but equally hegemonic, social order.

It is precisely because of these dangers that scholars taking a posthumanist approach to grammar must ground their assertions in contingency. In any given situation, how does one define grammar? What is the relationship between the users of that grammar? Are there multiple grammatical perspectives being brought to the communicative situation? What choices are available to the users of these grammars? How do these perspectives influence the quality of the relationships between speaking bodies?

In short, the ethical choice for someone using a posthumanist approach to grammar is to make a commitment to start from the ground these questions (and others, depending on the context) would provide.


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