Skip to main content

Together and Apart: A Queer Posthuman Theological Anthropology

Jack Slater, PhD project

Supervisors: Professor Susannah Cornwall and Professor Louise Lawrence

This project brings queer theology and posthuman theory into dialogue to explore important questions about what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world. As the boundaries between human beings and other inhabitants of this world – both biological inhabitants such as animals and plants and technoscientific inhabitants from AI to robots – are shown to be ever less clear, the privileged position of the human both as a theological object and as a position from which to do theology seems threatened. This project picks up existing themes within queer theory and theology to navigate this unsettling of the human and some of the consequences it might have for theological anthropology.

This project can be divided into two. In the first half, a well-developed tradition of posthuman theory is foregrounded in which humans are argued to be closer than ever thought to a wide range of others – both other people, but also animals, technology and other nonhumans. Figures such as the cyborgs of science fiction are critically examined with respect to some of the central tenets of theological anthropology. What does it mean for humans to be created in the image of God if those humans are increasingly technological? What are the implications for theologies of human creaturehood if we take seriously the extent to which human bodies are intermingled with bacteria, fungi and other microbes?

In the latter half of this project, a less prominent tradition of posthuman thought is brought to the fore. This emphasizes exclusion, separation and distance as necessarily constitutive of all objects. In dialogue with queer accounts of negativity, I ask how we can understand human sociality if that sociality is grounded on the exclusion of others. Bringing this alternative theme of posthuman thought into superposition with the former, we are presented with a much more complex and contingent picture of what it means to be human in the Anthropocene.