Fictionality in Critical Posthumanism: Why some Philosophies Need Genres of Invention

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This paper explores the pervasive presence of literature, film, speculation, fabulation, and other genres of invention in the theoretical writings also known as “critical posthumanism.” Identifying a set of different appropriations of fictional discourse in theoretical work by, amongst others, Astrida Niemanis, Stacy Alaimo, Rebekah Sheldon, Donna Haraway, and Jane Bennett, the paper asks why theorists united by a common interest in “getting real”, to use Karen Barad’s phrase (1998), often turn to a type of discourse that is defined precisely by not committing itself to reality. What, in other words, do genres and rhetorical devices that deliberately and explicitly make stuff up allow thinkers within critical posthumanism to do that traditional academic styles of writing do not?

To answer this question, the paper adopts key concepts from fictionality theory and utilize these in order to trace three distinct modes through which fictional discourse is put to use in the field of critical posthumanism. These modes are distinguished by inventing 1) non/human entanglements, 2) scientific knowledge, and 3) future societies respectively; yet all of them, the paper argues, fictionalize with the primary aim of imaginatively and affectively grasping phenomena that in principle reside beyond the limits of intelligibility.

In critical dialogue with Slavoj Žižek, who have accused this field for ignoring the question of epistemology, I will try to show that fictionality is adopted, here, precisely as an epistemological tool for envisioning that which cannot (yet) be perceived as “true.” On this basis, the paper intervenes in recent debates on the modes of theoretical argumentation in critical posthumanism, arguing that fictionality – in contrast to “literature”, “fabulation”, “speculation” or “wor(l)ding” – is a particularly attractive type of discourse for attempts to move beyond anthropocentric regimes of truth.

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Cecilie Klingenberg