Disability and the Inhuman
DOI link for Disability and the Inhuman
Disability and the Inhuman book
To call something ‘inhuman’ invites consideration of what that term means. It might denote something that falls short of, or violates, the properly human. Alternately, it could indicate something outside the human category. In each case, some notion of human is already presumed. I am interested here in such presuppositions, and the exclusions these entail: in particular, how certain ways of being become associated with the inhuman, how these associations are involved in the constitution of what is understood as properly human, and the deleterious effects for those associated with the inhuman. I address this in three stages. First, I sketch how common understandings of disability might be thought of as ‘dehumanising’. Next, I outline why responses to dehumanisation that appeal to the category of the human, or to humanity, are inapt. Disability is commonly understood in terms of dependency or diminished autonomy. This not only places disabled people in an ambiguous position with respect to the human—while formally within this category, they also fail, in these terms, to meet one of its central membership criteria—but contributes to the very notion that ‘normal’ humans, at least in principle, are autonomous. Finally, I consider the relationship between bodies and technology, to outline some alternative and positive aspects of an inhuman gaze. I suggest that all bodily activity is more or less technologically-enabled, but that the distribution of these technological resources generally benefits typical bodies and overlooks atypical bodies. These arrangements contribute to the purported autonomy of the normal human. Noting this contingency of the human, and that it has an inhuman, technological, dimension, loosens its metaphysical grip. This makes possible inhuman futures that are more hospitable to bodies that cannot or will not meet human criteria.