Fixing Futures Lecture

Donnerstag (21. September 2023), 12:45–13:30
HZ 5
Alina Gombert (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Annabelle Müller (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Naomi Bi (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
English-language session, STS, Mehr-als-menschliche Geographien, Globaler Süden

Funded by the DFG, Goethe University Frankfurt has recently established the Graduiertenkolleg »Fixing Futures« at the interdisciplinary intersection of cultural anthropology, human geography and sociology. Building on recent scholarship in science and technology studies (STS), the Research Training Group “Fixing Futures“ investigates how contemporary societies accommodate future developments and events. It explores “technologies of anticipation” focusing on economic practices, modes of government, and processes of life as the main research areas.

Jia Hui Lee

Geographies of the Counterhuman

What might it mean to pay attention to processes, modes, and topographies of becoming human? This lecture addresses one of the major emerging questions confronting scholars from various disciplines: What or Who is the human in a time of drastic climate, technological, political, and cultural change? There is a lot of talk about a posthuman future, promising human-robot collaborations, longer lives, enhanced mental computation, outer space frontierism, and efficient management of scarce resources. In these aspirations, the definitions and certainties of the human are being challenged. But these posthuman futures rarely consider the fact that for some people, particularly those living in the global South, and in places still grappling with ongoing legacies of colonialism and slavery, to be human was never guaranteed in the first place. This lecture elaborates geographies of becoming human from the global South, charting and configuring different modes of becoming human that attends to racial inequalities and decolonial futures in the collective work to build better planetary futures. It suggests that the term “counterhuman,” drawn from Caribbean scholar Sylvia Wynter’s work, offers a critical framework for identifying the politics at stake in geography, science and technology studies, anthropology, and other allied disciplines as they turn their attention to the unpredictable futures of what it means to become human, or perhaps more-than-human.

Discussant: Uli Beisel (FU Berlin)

Jia Hui Lee is an anthropologist of science and technology and professor of STS from the global South at the University of Bayreuth. He has received a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a historically informed ethnography of various human-rodent encounters in zoological research, animal training, and pest management schemes in Tanzania. Jia Hui Lee examines the cultural, political, and historical dimensions of how people produce knowledge to explain the world and how they invent, innovate, subvert, undermine, and repurpose technology