Exploring contemporary anthropological theory: Can we use posthumanism to reconceptualise the disabled body?

Hannah Grace Gibson


Posthumanism is an umbrella term signalling theoretical approaches that endeavour to challenge pervasive human/non-human, normal/abnormal, organic/man-made binaries. To explore the value of posthumanism for disability studies, this piece interrogates Latour’s Actor Network Theory and Haraway’s Cyborg Theory. Both scholars provide innovative ways of reconceptualising how bodies are intimately connected and shaped by technology once we move beyond a purely human-centred mode of understanding the world. I seek to provoke the nuances of each paradigm by applying them to three distinct cases of people who are classified disabled by society and connect differently with technology. Haraway celebrates expansion of subjectivity and hybridity, yet her cyborg imagery better articulates those bodies which are augmented through personal choice rather than circumstance or dependency. On the other hand, a Latourian framework simultaneously rejects preconceptions of what disability is whilst allowing new insights to emerge without denying the possibility of existing inequalities or oppression. This ultimately offers more value to disability studies and anthropology of disability.


Posthumanism, disability, cyborg theory, ANT, disabled bodies, posthumanism, cyborg bodies

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol12iss2id297