programme

Ways of Human

Home/ Ways of Human
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS2017034

Semester and Year Offered: Winter (second semester)

Course Coordinator and Team: Bindu K.C. and Bibinaz Thokchom

Email of course coordinator: bindukc@aud.ac.in / bibinaz@aud.ac.in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Description:

How do we study human and their ways of „being‟ and „non-being‟ that they contain? This course looks at the concept of the human. This is achieved not directly but through a hovering around the limits of the category. The unattainable and godly, the disgusting, the frightening and the ones to be shunned/unrecognised as „Human Proper‟ – in other words, “the other” that apparently comes as an opposite but is often the self setting its limits – is what we deal with in this course. The dystopic, the mechanical, the chaotic, the beastial and the otherworldly - these fearful imaginative productions of the other, the course argues, is often the production of our human selves trying desperately to define what it is. Instead of approaching only the philosophical through the logical, we also try to enter it through the imaginative and marginal experiences of Human, thus read literary texts and texts capturing the marginal realities of lived experiences through the course. The course will also examine what makes an experience and action possible and further oscillate between the construction of structures and articulation of experiences to unravel the contentious question of „why do we act as we do‟.

Aim: To deconstruct the concept of „Human‟ as conceptual category.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Look at the “Human” as a conceptual category.
  2. Learn the art of deconstruction by entering a category not directly but through its limits, especially through what is not human.
  3. Read concepts through imaginative texts like cultural texts especially the literary
  4. To identify ways in which the larger discourses of the social and physical sciences have shaped or elaborated on central psychological concepts such as the „self‟.
  5. To revisit, familiarise and further question some of the core human lifeways that are only articulated at the marginal space of the entire spectrum of human experiences.
  6. To open to learners multifarious possibilities human creates for their own sense of continuity of existence.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module I: Boundaries of the Human

  1. Theoretical Framework We begin by introducing the theoretical framework that we will be using throughout the course with a reading of Sheehan and Sosna who deal with the boundaries of humanity. Sheehan, James J. and Morton Sosna (Eds). The Boundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, Machines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
  2. The Animal and the Human In attempts to define „Human‟, we resort to elaborating on what is „Not Human‟. Human distinguishes themselves from animals, or as special kind of animal, by their capacity to organise and articulate experience through well developed meaningful gestures, languages structures and cultures having a history of these constructs. How would it be for a human to think of encountering moments that puts them under the gaze of an animal? Would the gaze be simply a gaze, a seeing or human‟s attempt to interpret the gaze through their own looking glasses? Who follows whom, animals follow humans or humans follow them? Or is there even a binary relationship between animals and Humans at all? Such questions will be examined through the text, „The Animal That Therefore I am‟ by Jacques Derrida who questions the very nature of differentiation made between Humans and Animals. Jacques Derrida. “The Animal that Therefore I am.” David Wills (Trans.) Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2. (Winter, 2002), pp. 369-418. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. “Introduction: The Persistence of Vision.” In Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. New York: Routeledge, 1989. Pp: 1-15. (Google Books). Kafka, Franz. “A Report to the Academy.” Ian Johnston (Trans.) http://www.kafka-online.info/a-report-for-an-academy.html accessed on 20-12-2018. “A Report to an Academy.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Report_to_an_Academy accessed on 20-12-2018. Suggested documentary film: „Animals are beautiful people‟ written and directed by Jamie Uys (1974) Fandry. Film.
  3. The “Unhuman” In this module, we enter the world of the “unhuman” in order to see the limits of the category human. What is the superhuman, the subhuman, the monstrous, the beastial and the inanimate – the “unhuman?” This entry is convenient to see the limits of our fearful, desperate managing of the human category‟s limits. Thus, we enter the world of gods, monsters, aliens and “the other” – to look at the self, the human. We try to dive into this world through the “illogic” of fictional narratives. The particular story that we take for detailed analysis looks at sex/gender/desire as an organising category of naming us human. In a post sexuality revolution period, human desire and its “perversities” prove to set limits here. We end with Manto‟s own vision of the dystopic from South Asia‟s huge historical heaving – the birth of the postcolonial nations in the “unhuman” – the sexual violence of partition. “Aye, and Gomorrah.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aye,_and_Gomorrah accessed on 20-12-2018. Delany, Samuel R. “Aye, and Gomorrah .” in Harlan Ellison. (Ed.) Dangerous Visions. London: Gateway, 2012. First Published in 1967. “Brief Analysis of “Aye, and Gomorrah.” https://pallavishankar.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/brief-analysis-of-aye-and-gomorrah/ accessed on 20-12-2018. “Fantastic transmissions E004 – Aye, and Gomorrah… by Samuel R. Delany.” https://offmichaelsbookshelf.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/fantastic-transmissions-e004-aye-and-gomorrah-by-samuel-r-delany/ accessed on 20-12-2018. Rubin, Gayle. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” http://sites.middlebury.edu/sexandsociety/files/2015/01/Rubin-Thinking-Sex.pdf accessed on 21-12-2018. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routeledge, 1990. Pp: 1-34.Manto, Sadat Hasan. “Khol Do.” https://urduwallahs.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/khol-do-saadat-hasan-manto/ accessed on 20-12-2018.
  4. Language: The Limit of the Human? In this module, we look at one of the major “achievements” of humanity – language as a category limit. In continuation with the earlier module, we look at the disturbances produced of the liminal - animals who speak and claim humanity, humans who stop speaking and thus regress into the “unhuman” and the problems of using speech as metaphor, as we are doing. We also ask the question of what is language? Is it a tool to communicate as it pretends? Or, is it a tool that produces us while we play at communicating? What happens to powerless languages? Are they recognized as languages or human communication at all? Do they push its speakers out of the realm of the human? Does entities like the state, fearful with its extraordinary powers over human lives, actually institute Orwellian “newspeaks” that makes us believe what we cannot? “Why humans run the world | Yuval Noah Harari.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzj7Wg4DAbs accessed on 21-12-2018. “Human Language Vs. Animal Communication.” https://owlcation.com/stem/The-difference-between-animal-and-human-communication accessed on 21-12-2018. Butler, Octavia E. "Speech Sounds." Bloodchild and Other Stories. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1996. pp. 87–110. “Speech Sounds.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_Sounds accessed on 20-12-2018. Arrival. Film. – the idea of free will becomes useless if we start reading the future. Lovecraft, H.P. “The Colour out of Space.” http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/cs.aspx “The Colour Out of Space.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Colour_Out_of_Space accessed on 20-12-2018.
  5. The Different as the Self: Monsters, Freaks and Ghouls This part of the course deals with the question of difference as the terrifying other. It asks the question of why the category of the self (human) has to frighteningly mark its boundary by creating monsters that it is not. Using disability theory framework, this part examines the making of “freaks” that are perhaps the fear of one‟s own mortality. Hatred of the other, as Jewel sings, can only emerge from self hatred. Atwood, Margaret. “Lusus Naturae.” https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/lusus-naturae-a-short-story-by-margaret-atwood/news-story/98d64e54ad8e8a960e0eed64d8e969f4 accessed on 20-12-2018. Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. “The Cultural Work of American Freak Shows, 1835-1940.” In Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Pp: 55-78. “Examined Life - Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor 720p.avi.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0HZaPkF6qE accessed on 20-12-2018. Jewel. “Pieces Of You (lyrics).”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkLRojxQ0Ks accessed on 20-12-2018. Ghoul. Netflix originals.

Module 2: The Human as Memory and Mortality Who are we as humans? Do we call ourselves human because we have memory? How do we deal with the fearful presence of memory as fragmented pieces? Doesnt it make us unwholesome degenerate beings who are broken pieces? Isn‟t the ultimate fear the wiping out of memory itself? Isnt mortality our human condition? Poe, Edgar Alan. “Ligeia.” https://www.eapoe.org/works/tales/ligeiag.htm accessed on 20-12-2018. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Film. “Be Right Back.” Episode from Black Mirror series. Baez, Joan - Diamonds and Rust https://youtu.be/1ST9TZBb9v8 accessed on 20-12-2018.

Module 3: The „others‟ in grief: Classic traditional anthropologists study cultures by focusing on explaining cultures as outsiders, rather than trying to understand them by being a part of the culture. Is grieving different from culture to culture? Or are the differences only in manifestations having a common underlying rage? Or perhaps, some cultures simply ignore the rage underlying grief? What would sobbing uncontrollably, punching on a wall, rolling on the floor hysterically or going on a drinking binge, mean to an observer? How does one address these questions in order to find „the other‟ in us? Some of these questions will be addressed in this module through the texts of „Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis‟ by Renato Rosaldo.Rosaldo, Renato. “Grief and a Headhunter‟s Rage.” http://paas.org.pl/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Rosaldo-Grief-and-a-Headhunters-Rage.pdf accessed on 20-12-2018. Suggested video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxyabzopQi8 Judith Butler: Speaking of Rage and Grief (2014)

Module 4: State, Nation and Progress: Imaginations of Total Control? How can we exclude the imaginations of societies totally controlled by a larger entity – be it nation, or the state or a dystopic future/presents where the human is left in the mad, imaginary lines drawn between nation states? Can it sometimes be alternative imaginations of power? The idea of progress is what has actually produced many dystopic visions. We examine that through the story the tower of Babylon.

  • V for Vendetta. Film.
  • Saga of Dharmapuri.
  • Manto, Sadat Hasan. “Toba Tek Singh.”
  • Madhavan, N.S. “Blue Pencil – A Short Story.” https://thewire.in/culture/babri-masjid-demolition-2/amp/?__twitter_impression=true
  • In Time. Film.
  • Court. Film.
  • Chiang, Ted. “Tower of Babylon.” http://gws.soonlabel.com/misc/Ted%20Chiang%20-%20Tower%20Of%20Babylon.pdf accessed on 20-12-2018.
  • Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat. “Sultana's Dream.” https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/sultana/dream/dream.html accessed on 20-12-2018. First published 1905.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Daniel HellerRoazen (Trans). Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
  • „Are you a man?‟ Performing Naked Protest in India by Deepti Misri, The university of Chicago press journals, 2011.
  • „Shooting the Sun: A Study of Death and Protest in Manipur‟ by Jogendro Ksh, Economic and Political weekly, 2009.
  • Oppenheimer, Joshua. “The Act of killing” .
  • „Are you a man?‟ Performing Naked Protest in India by Deepti Misri, The university of Chicago press journals, 2011. „Shooting the Sun: A Study of Death and Protest in Manipur‟ by Jogendro Ksh, Economic and Political weekly, 2009.
  • „Life and words: Violence and the descent into the ordinary‟ (chapter 1 & 2) by Veena Das.

Module 5: Virtual vs Real Human: Why do we need to study virtual being? How strong is the relationship between human and technologies? Artificiality and creativity is natural to human beings. Technology can degrade human life as well as emancipate allowing them to live out their fantasies. So, is real really only real and virtual simply virtual? What happens when the virtual meets the real? In contemporary time, the virtual world is becoming essential to the real world. This module will explore the extended possibilities of human existence beyond their physical and actual interactional domains and how the virtual is gradually dominating the real world allowing technology to absorb us.

  • „Personhood: The self-the life course- Avatars and alts-embodiment-gender and race-Agency (chapter-5 from Coming of age in Second life)‟ by Tom Boellstorff, Princeton University press, 2008.
  • „The Virtual: the virtual human-Culture and the online-Simulation-Fiction and design-The massively multiple- Toward an anthropology of virtual worlds (chapter-9 from Coming of age in second life)‟ by Tom Boesllstorff, Princeton University press, 2008.
  • Suggested readings:
  • “A Cyborg Manifesto: science, technology and Socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century‟ by Donna Harraway, University of Minnesota press. 2016.
  • Avatar by James Cameron (2009)
  • The matrix (Triology) by Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski,
  • Nick Bostrom – the transhuman ideas to see how they derive from evolutionary biology discourse of progress of human race.
  • Braidioti, Rosi. Posthuman Feminism. Polity Press, 2018.
  • Halberstam, Judith M., Ira Livingston. Posthuman Bodies. Indiana University Press,1995.

Assessment Details with weights:

There are 3 types of assessments.

  1. Weekly Diary (25%)
  2. Term paper – This is the major assignment and is also divided into three parts – the plan of the term paper should be presented as a. visual representation (10%) b. Abstract of a page (20%) c. Final assignment as term paper (30%)
  3. Attendance and participation – 15% - the active participation is noticed and graded.

Reading List:

1. Module I: Boundaries of the Human:

a: Theoretical Framework

  • Sheehan, James J. and Morton Sosna (Eds). The Boundaries of Humanity: Humans, Animals, Machines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

b: The Animal and the Human

  • Jacques Derrida. “The Animal that Therefore I am.” David Wills (Trans.) Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 2. (Winter, 2002), pp. 369-418.
  • Haraway, Donna Jeanne. “Introduction: The Persistence of Vision.” In Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. New York: Routeledge, 1989. Pp: 1-15. (Google Books).

c: The “Unhuman”

d: Language: The Limit of the Human?

e: The Different as the Self: Monsters, Freaks and Ghouls

Module 2: The Human as Memory and Mortality

Module 3: The „others‟ in grief:

Module 4: State, Nation and Progress: Imaginations of Total Control?

  • V for Vendetta. Film.
  • Saga of Dharmapuri.
  • Manto, Sadat Hasan. “Toba Tek Singh.”
  • Madhavan, N.S. “Blue Pencil – A Short Story.” https://thewire.in/culture/babri-masjid-demolition-2/amp/?__twitter_impression=true
  • In Time. Film.
  • Court. Film.
  • Chiang, Ted. “Tower of Babylon.” http://gws.soonlabel.com/misc/Ted%20Chiang%20-%20Tower%20Of%20Babylon.pdf accessed on 20-12-2018.
  • Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat. “Sultana's Dream.” https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/sultana/dream/dream.html accessed on 20-12-2018. First published 1905.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Daniel HellerRoazen (Trans). Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.
  • Are you a man?‟ Performing Naked Protest in India by Deepti Misri, The university of Chicago press journals, 2011.
  • Shooting the Sun: A Study of Death and Protest in Manipur‟ by Jogendro Ksh, Economic and Political weekly, 2009.
  • Oppenheimer, Joshua. “The Act of killing” .
  • Are you a man?‟ Performing Naked Protest in India by Deepti Misri, The university of Chicago press journals, 2011.
  • Shooting the Sun: A Study of Death and Protest in Manipur‟ by Jogendro Ksh, Economic and Political weekly, 2009.
  • Life and words: Violence and the descent into the ordinary‟ (chapter 1 & 2) by Veena Das.

Module 5: Virtual vs Real Human:

  • Personhood: The self-the life course- Avatars and alts-embodiment-gender and race-Agency (chapter-5 from Coming of age in Second life)‟ by Tom Boellstorff, Princeton University press, 2008.
  • The Virtual: the virtual human-Culture and the online-Simulation-Fiction and design-The massively multiple- Toward an anthropology of virtual worlds (chapter-9 from Coming of age in second life)‟ by Tom Boesllstorff, Princeton University press, 2008.
  • Suggested readings:
  • A Cyborg Manifesto: science, technology and Socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century‟ by Donna Harraway, University of Minnesota press. 2016.
  • Avatar by James Cameron (2009)
  • The matrix (Triology) by Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski,
  • Nick Bostrom – the transhuman ideas to see how they derive from evolutionary biology discourse of progress of human race.
  • Braidioti, Rosi. Posthuman Feminism. Polity Press, 2018.
  • Halberstam, Judith M., Ira Livingston. Posthuman Bodies. Indiana University Press,1995.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE:

Added module-wise suggested readings above.