To anticipate a question that may arise in many readers’ minds: why is a special issue of EJES on European posthumanism appropriate right now? Questions like this can have simple answers. And one answer to this question is simple enough. Posthumanism is in the air. It has been so for some years, and the themes and concerns that it names are now shaping English Studies in discernible ways, even when these themes are not designated by the term posthumanism. Overriding and recurring questions on what it means to be a human in the twenty-first century lend urgency to any inquiry that appears to suggest, through that fateful post- prefix, that we have already come out on the other side of humanism and humanity. We know, of course, that we have not – at least not quite yet. But instability caused by humanism’s and humanity’s precariousness on the one hand and their abiding, felt presence, on the other, renders posthumanism a compelling and apposite label for our times. In its most straightforward usage, this term is linked to the ‘technological imagination’ (de Lauretis, Huyssen and Woodward, 1980), or to what has been described as ‘a mindset that enables people to think with technology, to transform what is known into what is possible’ (Balsamo, 2011: 7). In more sensational usages, it countenances the conceit that it might not be hubristic to speculate that the human condition, or at least some aspects of it, can be reengineered. Away from those scenarios, the term accrues further associations specific to the current historical moment and its unprecedented challenges and affordances. Thus, for instance, questions about the nature of animal being and the extent of ecological responsibility have become increasingly pressing. Further, the evolving interfaces between humans, machines and prosthetic extensions lead to scenarios that have become conceivable only in our time. They bear distinct ethical and political provocations that raise issues concerning inhumanity, while the increasing interest in ‘worlds and universes without us’ scenarios brings home just how present to the contemporary imaginary the prospect of the post-apocalyptic has become (Taylor, 2013; Weisman, 2007). Given the immediacy of these questions and issues, it can hardly appear incongruous that EJES seeks to explore how posthumanism impacts not only on English Studies but also on the many fields with which the study of English has well-established interdisciplinary connections. Philosophy, anthropology, political theory, sociology and psychology feature among these disciplines, and they all inform the essays in this special issue of EJES as well as its introduction.
Bibliographical noteThis editorial has been made freely available by Taylor and Francis under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence and can be downloaded at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13825577.2014.916999
This article has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.