The Animal Catalyst: Towards Ahuman Theory
The persistently metamorphic contortions of all grammatical varieties of the word ‘animal’ fascinate contemporary thought in a unique way. For many connected reasons, including the most basic two – the horrified sympathy elicited via bearing witness to humanity’s accursed excess of power, and the fetishization of inaccessible alterity in the face of posthumanism’s existential mid-life crisis – this simultaneously meaningful and meaningless word has become a catalyst for trajectories of thought in contest with each other, epistemically and philosophically, ethically and creatively. The animal conundrum begins with the ‘we’ that we are as human animals – so like nonhuman animals but so unlike, depending on which rhetoric benefits humans at any given time. Shared animality laments our organic fate while it emphasizes our very capacity to define through what is a ‘non’ human animal. The word is insipid, seductive, dangerously useful and perhaps the ripest frontier for delivering life from the pestilence of the only true parasite – the human. This collection reconfigures the conundrum at turns, acknowledging that there are no easy solutions, but there is most definitely a need to get away entirely from this shared species of human, from which so much life, human and nonhuman, is extricated. No longer seeking inclusion, no longer validating the phantasized attractiveness of majoritarian concerns, emphasizing interconnected affectivity, The Animal Catalyst understands the word ‘animal’ as nothing more than organic life, which is shared between myriad organisms, their expressions and affects, and nothing less than an absolute refusal of the word in all its incarnations (too often incantations): ‘human’. Animal does not replace human. The ethical and creative inspirations catalysed by stepping outside of human-ness engender connectivities which may foster new openings for the liberty of nonhuman life, while simultaneously producing incomprehensible emergences of formerly human life lived singularly and differently, based on the very premise of connectivity and multiplicity of the unlike or unnatural (because for the human all non-parasitic nonhuman connections are unnatural). If ‘affects are the becoming inhuman of man’ (Deleuze & Guattari 1994: 169), then man must pass through inhumanity towards ethics. This book suggests as a term for encountering the outside of human the word ‘ahuman’, inspired by Guattari’s statement: ‘In the last resort what will be determinant in the political and aesthetic plane is not the words and the content of ideas but essentially a-signifying messages that escape dominant ideologies’ (Guattari 1996: 154). Ahuman verges on a nothing that includes everything. It utilizes our animalness in a non-speciesist way to remind us there are escape routes from humanism which may encourage ethical relations, not by knowing, fetishizing or making an idea of an animal, but because when there is no human there is no deferral to human signifying systems. Just as this book is premised on an absolute abolitionist stance on all interaction with – conceptually and actually – any nonhuman, the concept term ‘ahuman’ is an absolute abolitionist refusal of the human.
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