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Decenter the Humans

I heard it again on the radio yesterday: developing nations. There are other forms of the phrase: third world countries, emergent nations, underdeveloped nations (“Developing Countries”). All of them gall me. Why? Underneath these terms is the idea that the people in these areas are less than those in the so-called first world countries. These people have been Othered. The problem could be one of language. As Judith Butler states, “In the effort to explain these relations [those of grief, in her case] … I … minimize its own relationality” (23). If we cannot find language to discuss humans as humans, then what happens when we realize that humans are not the center of our world?

In thinking about aliens and animals, we must recognize that because of “the absence of another rational being against which to compare ‘man’” (Clark 203) we get to make humans to be whatever we wish them to be, including being completely narcissistic about our place in the world and failing to look at the “human minutiae” (204) that makes us part of an assemblage of human, technology, object, and animal. In order to “get on together” (qtd. in Haraway 98) it is important that we recognize “the anguish of this vulnerability” (qtd. in Wolfe 18) of all elements in the system (assemblage) to woundedness, to death. We can no longer bear the “pose of innocence" (Haraway 98). We now know that there are Others who possess Being and Interiority. The first step is recognizing that all humans in all areas of the world in all situations are wounded and vulnerable. This is why we must stop referring to other parts of the earth as developing or underdeveloped or third world. There is only one earth, and western notions of development need not apply to all parts of the world. “Individuation is an accomplishment…,” according to Butler (27), and in individuating humans we recognize that the normative dimension needs to be “interdependence” (27). In recognizing individuality and difference we can move to an understanding of being in this world together and work towards a recognition of interdependence for survival.

But recognizing human interdependence and woundedness is not enough. Humans are not the only created Beings. Genesis 1 and 2 narrates the creation of more than just humans. Thus the second step is recognizing that humans are not the center is to think about animals and aliens to enact “a process of degradation” (Clark 212). It is a shocking thought, this degradation. No one likes to be told they are not special. Humans need to be told this more than any other Being on earth for we have placed ourselves at the center of rationality and, therefore, of existence. Recognizing others as Being may degrade our place at the center, but moving away from narcissism is necessary for recognizing how “to get on together” in an interdependent state of an assemblage. We are an entanglement of relations of Beings, and we must see and communicate with the Other “at the horizon, the space where Beings touch, perhaps even overlap, but do not subsume the other” (Childree: Reference to Merleau-Ponty).

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. “Violence, Mourning, Politics.” 19-49. Provided by professor.

Childree, Heather. “Humanism versus Posthumanism.” Week 1 Discussion Post.

Clark, David. “Kant’s Aliens: The Anthropology and Its Others.” Project Muse. 201-225. Provided by Professor.

“Developing Countries.” n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. <>.

Haraway, Donna. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “4 The Intertwining - The Chiasm.” The Visible and The Invisible. Ed. Claude Lefort. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1968. 130-155. PDF.

Wolfe, Carey. “Introduction: Exposures.” Philosophy and Animal Life. Columbia UP: New York. 43-89. Provided by professor.

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