Trauma, Standpoint, Posthumanity – Theorizing the Bio-Cultural Network of Relationships

It’s well established that some elements of personality are genetic.  It’s also well established that biological determinism can provide one of the most pernicious forms of racism.  It’s generally acknowledged (or at least proclaimed) that all people are created equal (which is not at all the same as all people being created identical).  And yet it’s clear that each person has differing levels of proficiency in any number of areas, some of them quantifiable (vocal range, math skills, physical strength) and others not (how does one define “a good mother”?)

A major tension I see in the humanties is the struggle to define “appropriate” markers of difference.  Trauma studies, disability studies, and standpoint theory (and feminist theory, queer studies, African American studies, Native American studies….) are all built upon the cultural fact of marginalization – theorists attempt to study and understand and describe the obscured experiences of life on the margins.  Standpoint, however, recognizes the weakness of attempting such study from the vantage point of a privileged social position – socioeconomic norms and expectations can severely affect and inhibit what one is able to perceive (see “perception threshold” – I’m sure this is a term I have seen somewhere.)

Posthuman studies could be one intesting way to approach these social differences, as a way to identify the ways in which these cultural and social effects (particularly literacy effects) lead to changes in the biological substrate of the human self.

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