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Lecture 10

GGRB13 - Lecture 10 - Posthumanism

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Minelle Mahtani

GGRB13 – Lecture 10 NEW TRENDS IN SOCIAL GEOGRAPHY: POSTHUMAN GEOGRAPHIES - This week’s readings will not be on the exam, exclude it! Today’s Class - Human/non-human geographies through 3 case studies: 1) Bees and the military industrial complex 2) Mosquitos in 1942 Cairo - How can mosquitos talk? 3) Cats in the desert in boundary enforcement practices - Felines such as lions, the role that they play Questions you should be able to answer at the end of today’s class: - What are post-human geographies? - What does the human/post-human binary have to do with bees, mosquitos and cats? - There is a false binary of physical geography and human geography, they are actually inter-twined (not separate) - What does this have to do with animals? Post-human geographies - Social geography is about people and place - Human centred narrative - Things? Animals? - Animals play a huge role in our lives, and yet, we’ve made humans the centre of the narrative - Unequal living conditions, social difference, and identity struggles - We don’t have any framework to discuss these issues in detail Human/Non-Human - Marx: Is disease human or non-human? - Diseases have a particular path of travel, but how do we trace its origins? - Objects and animals - Reclus: “Humanity emerges within nature rather than out of it” - Where does the social end? Being social is the relationships with people, so where does it end? - Where does the body begin? Think about the body as the geography closest in Organizations - Organizations made up of nonhuman actors that regulate, contain and enable the practices of bodies - Re-conceptualizing the grounds for research - Geography goes beyond people and place - The reception desk is always the first thing that a stranger sees when walking into an office, they tend to have interesting shapes, and they play a role - The table reinforces the dynamics of power in particular ways - Playgrounds redefine how play happens, things matter Not out there - Think about a different way of conceptualizing the world of objects - Nonhuman doesn’t mean beyond the human but offers a way to conceptualize the world of objects and technologies - We always try to think of what things mean - Culture/nature, when we think of culture we think of people, when we think of nature we think of the things that grow in the ground - Things and creatures play a big role in our lives - There is a particular thing that emerges between pets and owners, there are relationships Donna Haraway - Socio-techno-biological body - We need to complicate the idea of the body in some way - Human-non-human binary collapses when we think about hybridity - Hybridity as a conceptual concept of life through objects - People are not human and non-human beings, they are cyborgs - Technological devices have been an extension of our body, they are prostheses in someway and we rely on them that we’re non-human Ex. Cellphones, laptops - Donna Haraways says we need to look at cyborgs, a fuse between human and non-human Cyborgs - They offer an escape from the maze of dualisms through which our bodies have been explained - Technological and biological divide iPhone Siri (Voice Recognition) - Is Siri an extension of us? Is it human or nonhuman? Is our capability to be human extended through the use of Siri? - Siri means “Beautiful victory”, but who is winning here? Siri Phone Redux - It interprets signs the same way that humans do Ex. It says “let me think” when it is processing information - It’s possible to discern traces of how the nonhuman is part of everyday life - And has AGENCY in constructing the world - Does it have agency? Today’s plan - How does the nonhuman have agency? - How do geographers think about human and nonhuman? 3 Examples: Bees, mosquitoes, and cats - Animals are non-human, but they are animals BEES - Think about your relationship to bees - We can be allergic to them, stung, we steal honey from them, we throw rocks at their hives, and yet we co-exist with them - Bees pollinate flowers - Does a bee have agency? They make a decision to sting someone and give up their life We’re killing bees - We don’t realize that they’re becoming extinct - Therefore the price of honey has gone up - 1/3 of colonies fail to survive winters - 121 pesticides causing them to be extinct - Climate change also playing a role Marx on Bees - What distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this: - The architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality, however bees are not architects, they do not have the capacity for critical thought - Bees build an elaborate hive - That is debatable Dr. Jake Kosek and Ecologies of Empire - Studied bees for 10 years - “Ecologies of empire”, bees is a tool and metaphor for the war on terror - The largest funding of the military is on bee-keeping research - They are a strategic resource on the battlefield, bees used on the battlefield to gather information - He argues that bees have been an extension of us in some way - Honeybees shift bio and geopolitical terrain, where humans are remade in war - Bees have been used in warfare since the Antiquities; hives were dropped on enemies or thrown in minefields - The enemy on the war on terror is everywhere, if the idea of the enemy being everywhere then nowhere is safe. So why not send bees to find information? Bees are nonhuman so we can afford to lose them, they are also very mobile How bees work literally - Bees as detectives, they have information-gathering potential - Honey made from contaminated flowers can be tested for chemicals - Bees have micro hairs that can detect chemicals and explosives - Bees use their tongues for sensory and as a signal for detecting explosives (such as at checkpoints) - Honeybees are one of the most inexpensive sensory platforms, because they are easy to replace Bees gather information about spaces - They breathe, sample air, soil, water, vegetation, liquids and particular matter - So you place a hive in a particular area that you think is contaminated, and thousands of bees will do field samples of pollinating plants within 2 miles of the hive - They can show toxicity of contaminants - They are individually placed in cells to be trained as chemical-detecting devices - Bees extend their proboscis (elongated appendage from the head) to signal the presence of a chemical trace (such as explosives) New Technologies – New Hybrids - New technologies inserted at the larvae stage - Place micromechanical systems inside insects during early stages of metamorphosis - They expect the bee to be fused with technology, and become “cyborgs” - Bringing command-control intelligence
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