Posthuman Labour Solidarity and the Dialectics of Animal Community: Confronting the Contradictions of Anthropocentrism Through Cinematic Imaginaries
This thesis takes a novel solidarity-based approach to posthuman theory which engages with a diversity of core reference points in the western philosophical canon to demystify the nature of moral questions about the nonhuman world. The immediacy of anthropogenic climate collapse, mass species extinction, and global warming are central characteristics of our alienation from nature, ourselves, and each other, and this is the motivating premise of the project. What I intend to demonstrate is that the problem of motivating commitment to restorative action and justice is one which requires that we address first the inherent shortcomings of the philosophical frameworks we use to generate our arguments, and that this process must involve paying more attention to how these notions are conveyed in sites of cultural production, by which I mean the various artistic experiences which make our social arrangements meaningful. I argue that making political realities relevant and plausible is, necessarily, in part an aesthetic matter, and I demonstrate this via a series of close readings of films which are threaded through each chapter as a means of working through both the problems in theory and applied topics alike.
I first address the obstacles to actualizing our conclusions about posthuman or normative-interspecies questions from within the liberal, rationalist enlightenment tradition. I suggest that deontological or neo-Kantian conventions are imbued in all of our established models of reasoning, particularly ones which purport to be more objective or rigorous, like those under the STEM umbrella. I argue that these are also insidiously present in models which explicitly resist these tendencies, like affect and empathy theory, or solidarity and ecosocialist theory. This phenomenon of compromised reasoning is a result of unresolved contradictions between resistant or revolutionary models of reasoning and dominant, oppressive models of reasoning which must be worked through dialectically, not just by correcting or refining our analysis, but by revolutionizing the methodology itself. I argue that all ways of knowing must be attended to as inherently political and thereby class-ordering when realized within conditions of injustice.
Accordingly, readings of film in my project serve to illustrate not just the ubiquity of political attitudes downstream of our dominant reasoning models, but also work against or resist this tendency by showing how moral and political sentiments about community, whether human or posthuman, have a material or grounded logic which is most freely explored as an aesthetic experience. I posit that the nature of these problems of interspecies community building is fundamentally one of institutional injustice and alienation. Since solidarity is simply the intersubjective capacity to see, in a self-actualizing other, interests which we share, injustice must be realized through a priori, principled erosion of perceptiveness in our affective and epistemic frameworks carried out by institutional convention. Ultimately, I suggest as a solution an affect-based solidarity approach which is only coherently articulated as a flexible, posthuman notion of community qua a dynamic arrangement of interspecies labour relationships, where labour is conceived as an acting out of creative and productive energy.