Class Name: “Critiques of the Human from Africa”
Taught By: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jia Hui Lee
My class, “Critiques of the Human from Africa”, is an exploration of African notions of humanism and the human. In a seminar setting, we closely read texts about Indigenous concepts such as utu or ubuntu, critiques of European humanism from anti-colonial writers, the relationship between Blackness and being human, and artistic experimentation with outer space and digital realms as posthuman spaces. We consider these texts as theorizations of the human from the place of Africa, bring these discussions to bear on technological, scientific, climate, bodily, psychological, and political disruptions that the world is experiencing.
As an anthropologist of science and technology, I think a lot about more-than-human relations, whether those are environmental or technological, and I was frustrated by discussions of humanism that often begin in the European Enlightenment. I wanted to propose an alternative and Africa-centered genealogy of humanism; and then it was a challenge I set for myself to see if I can lead discussions about this with Haverford students who bring with them a multitude of experiences to this question. I will say that seminar discussions this semester have been very engaging, and many of the questions and thoughts students have shared will shape how I continue to develop this aspect of my own research.
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