©2018 BY ADASHIMA OYO

Post-Humanism & Historical Trauma

May 1, 2018

 

While I have frequently been a victim of post-humanist views, prior to enrolling in the course Intersectionality & Activist Research (M4BL) or reading “Humans Involved: Lurking in the Lines of Posthumanist Flight” by Tiffany King (2017), I was completely unaware that there was a scholarly term for some of my experiences from my graduate studies. According to King (2017), “The posthumanist’s horn often blows from a place situated securely within the folds of humanity. This is a very different place than the space of nonbeing from which Black and Indigenous peoples moan, sing, or speak” (p. 179). From this standpoint, I vividly recall working with a professor on a research paper and her insistence that I move beyond how I was feeling about the subject, and focus on completing the paper. At the time, I heeded her advice but it was an enormous struggle. While I was studying disparities in HIV that disproportionately burdened Black women, I was also deeply connected with the subject material. Unbeknown to to the professor, my older sister, Ife, was HIV-positive and also suffered from a vicious love affair with crack cocaine. During the completion of my graduate studies, she passed away. While still not entirely clear to me 10 years later, I felt uncomfortable disclosing that information to the professor. Perhaps I feared that some of the shame and stigma associated with HIV and drug abuse would rub off on me, and she would subsequently view me differently. Or, worse of all, treat me differently. King’s (2017) assertion that “both the human and the post human are causes for suspicion within Black studies” (p. 166) still rings true for me. On one hand, surely the professor would have chosen her words more carefully had she known what was going on in my personal life. However, the separation that frequently occurs in higher education between the personal and academic lives of students subscribes to dominant ideologies that the two need not intersect. That is, leave your identity, personal life, structural barriers that you wear like skin, and your epistemologies at the door once you enter the classroom. Rarely is this communicated in direct words. Rather it is communicated in smaller ways by what is not said to encourage the intersection, or by professors who fail to see the importance of knowing and correctly pronouncing their students’ names, or the comfortable tendency for some professors to leap straight into carefully prepared (yet repeatedly recycled) lectures before checking-in with their students. Perhaps these things are a lift that is too heavy and unrealistic for professors who may be balancing their own demands. As a doctoral student, I find myself once again confronted by the burden of posthumanism. Readings of a few pages that should ordinarily happen very quickly, takes me longer to read and process. It’s not because I have a problem with comprehension. Rather, it’s because I am frequently reading texts about repeated efforts to oppress minority populations. I envy students who have elected to study topics or focus their research interests to areas that do not carry a human burden, or a stench of social injustice, and avails them the luxury to examine topics where there is never a discussion about their research design or their theories neatly fitting into dominant frameworks. Considering the history of Black feminist and their effort to disrupt traditional scholarship with new narratives and methodologies (Patterson, Kinloch, Burkhard, Randall, & Howard, 2016), I am reminded of the need for Black scholars to continue efforts to produce socially relevant research (Ashlee, Zamora, & Karikara, 2017). Patterson and colleagues (2016) argue that “individually and collectively, black women experience marginalization at the intersections of various identity markers including race, gender, sexuality, class…[and] neither of these markers can be untangled from the other; both influence black women’s standpoints, how we view the world, and how we experience our various truths” (p. 55-56). Yet, posthumanism does not yield to this argument, and that is problematic.

 

 

 

References

Ashlee, A. A., Zamora, B., & Karikari, S. N. (2017). We Are Woke: A Collaborative Critical Autoethnography of Three “Womxn” of Color Graduate Students in Higher Education. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 19(1), 89-104.

 

King, T. L. (2017). Humans involved: lurking in the lines of posthumanist flight. Critical Ethnic Studies, 3(1), 162-185.

 

Patterson, A., Kinloch, V., Burkhard, T., Randall, R., & Howard, A. (2016). Black feminist thought as methodology: Examining intergenerational lived experiences of black women. Depart Crit Qual Res, 5(3), 55-76.

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