University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bio-Humanities Symposium: Experiments in Thinking the Human
Dan Goodley was invited to speak at this event which was co-sponsored by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This Event was a multidisciplinary effort to reimagine human being in the context of developments in the contemporary life sciences that find biology to be responsive to social and environmental factors. Presenters came from the US and Europe to experiment with different theories, media and methods of representing the human. Contributors spanned disciplines of the human, natural and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. dan’s paper was entitled ‘DisHuman: Theorising disability and the human’.
This presentation drew upon Dan’s recent work with colleagues in Sheffield and Manchester in Britain and in response to some inspiring writers and writings. Drawing on research projects and intellectual moments of engagement, the presentation considered the ways in which disability disavows normative constructions of the human.
Dan told us:
“I use the term disavowal in its original psychoanalytic sense of the word: to simultaneously and ambivalently desire and reject something (in this case, the human). I clarified and expanded upon this disavowal – with explicit reference to the politics of people with intellectual disabilities – and made a case for the ways in which the human is (i) a category through which social recognition can be gained and (ii) a classification requiring expansion, extension and disruption. Indeed, an under-girding contention of this paper is that people with intellectual disabilities are already engaged in what we might term a posthuman politics from which all kinds of human can learn.”
The paper outlined seven reasons why we should ask what it means to be human, focusing on four very human elements – support, frailty, capacity and desire – and disability’s place in redefining these elements.
Dan and Kirsty will be exploring these human elements further in their new project working alongside young people with life limiting and life threatening impairments, funded by the ESRC.