Do we need a posthumanist sociology? Notes from the COVID-19 pandemic

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    Abstract

    This article asks whether we need a posthumanist sociology, arguing that such a perspective can export a good deal of useful methodological and theoretical insight into the sociological toolbox. A posthumanist sociology is not a flattened ontology, in which we find agency in all things living and non-living. A posthumanist sociology asks instead what we do with the fundamental question of becoming both more and less human, following a surge of interest in decentring human exceptionalism. Moreover, a posthumanist sociology returns to the question of what it means to be an intersectional being, to proliferate the involvement of entities at the intersections of histories and social structures. Thus, it is a perspective that emerges from within the conditions of related crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has highlighted the need to decentre human exceptionalism, raising a challenge for sociologists to return to the premises of what it means to be a social being. In some sense, management of the pandemic already assumes a decentring. This article builds an argument by first reviewing what broadly constitutes a ‘posthumanist’ sociological perspective, then moves on to a case study of the interrelated human and non-human actors that constituted the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The case study usefully marks the intersection between human and non-human bodies as nodes in the interpretive production chain of this global event – one that acknowledges human extensions and connections to multispecies and ecological systems. Such interlinkages become foundational to interrogating what it means to become human in a posthuman world.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)214-232
    Number of pages19
    JournalCurrent Sociology
    Volume72
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan. 2024

    Keywords

    • Bodies
    • nature
    • pandemic
    • posthumanism
    • virus

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