Of the multitude of topics discusses on Friday at the Ecologies of the Inhuman symposium, one theme consistently appeared to be as the overarching topic of the day. Division and union seemed to be something almost every speaker touched on at some point, and the panel at the end of the talks seemed to hint at that idea as well. The line between a divide of human and inhuman was, perhaps unsurprisingly given the name of the event, the most common topic. From an instrument using a host in the Prioress’ Tale, as Alan Montroso discussed; to Anne Harris’ theory of objects becoming inhuman while acting upon the human as an interruption in a human worded narrative; to the interesting conceptual boundary of “green men” in medieval cathedrals and modern day New York City, as Carolyn Dinshaw brought forth, it seems that the line between what is human and what is not human has been a long contested boundary.
It was when the speakers took that idea even further forward that I really began to be fascinated at the quality of discourse unfolding in front of me. Ian Bogost seemed to begin the direct discussion of union with his statement that all processes are beings too, something that echoed Steve Mentz and numerous other speakers of the day. That is, Bogost proposed that the meeting of the real and the sensual, humanity and animalist, and safety and hazard are all spaces where the membrane is clearly there, creating a union between what is sub- and super-human.
This concept was incredible to me, and quite honestly, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the discourse that unfolded after Bogost’s talk, something that was very much based on ideas from Steve Mentz’s talk as well. The idea of a process as a being, meaning that it’s possible to engage with something as more than a transition between one state and another, opens up a plethora of possibilities for scholarship and understanding, just as Mentz discussed being in a shipwreck. We are already in a shipwreck, according to Mentz, and as James Smith said at the end of the panel, destruction can be creation in a different temporality. Perhaps it is the shipwreck, the moment between safety and hazard, which opens up the possibility for now beyond the “straight time” that Carolyn Dinshaw discussed in her book “How Soon Is Now?”. Maybe it is the diffusion of a conceptual boundary that will enable a hinged moment of transition to eradicate the already blurring line between the human and the inhuman.