chapter  6
11 Pages

Beyond ‘culture’ and ‘nature’: Towards a post-humanist knowledge

The preceding chapters have drawn upon the analytics of genealogy and generalized symmetry as critical strategies for decentring the modern ‘social’ and the ‘cultural’ subject, thereby making a more heterogeneous account of modernity possible, and one which creates the space for a non-anthropocentric analysis of human-nonhuman continuity and nature-culture interconstitution. Pursuing this agenda through a historical case study of the development of the British dairy industry, I have made a series of interconnected arguments and conclusions, both substantive and philosophical. I have argued that the category of ‘culture’ or ‘the social’, so pivotal in the organization of modernity as a form of order, far from being the ontological condition of human existence, has been historically constituted through the discourse of humanism and the material, epistemic and micro-political practices in which its categories are actualized. I have used this term ‘humanism’ to designate the discursive formation which holds that human beings inhabit an ontologically unique domain of intersubjective meaning and agency, incommensurable with the nonhuman world. This domain, I have suggested, is what the knowledgepractices of modernity, including those of social science, know as ‘culture’. At the core of the foregoing analyses, therefore, has been the attempt to show that what we think of as ‘culture’ or ‘the social’ is enacted or performed into being within networks of historical practices which inscribe what it is to be human through a systematic othering of the nonhuman.