In this episode of High Theory, Rasheed Tazudeen tells us about the inhuman. The inhuman offers a way of moving beyond the legacies of humanism and across categories and scales of being. Thinking with the inhuman world, from spools of thread to microplastics, helps us try and think otherwise about the complex assemblages that shape our lives. 

If you want to learn more, check out Rasheed’s new book, Modernism’s Inhuman Worlds (Cornell UP, 2024). The book explores the centrality of ecological precarity, species indeterminacy, planetary change, and the specter of extinction to modernist and contemporary metamodernist literatures. Modernist ecologies emerge in response to the enigma of how to imagine inhuman being—including soils, forests, oceans, and the earth itself—through languages and epistemologies that have only ever been humanist. Rasheed asks how (meta)modernist aesthetics might help us to imagine (with) inhuman worlds, including the worlds still to be made on the other side of mass extinction. 

Rasheed Tazudeen is a lecturer in English at Yale University. His work is focused broadly on the intersections between ecology, race, and sound in 19th- and 20th-century literature and music. He is currently at work on a second project tentatively titled The Musicked Earth: Towards a Decolonial Sound Ecology, focused on the resonances between Black/Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous theories of sound, music, festival, and ecology through the work of Sylvia Wynter, Édouard Glissant, Leanne Simpson, and Alice Coltrane. 

This week’s image was made by Saronik Bosu in 2024. It represents a humanoid creature in fetal position, merging with the inhuman world.

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The Right to Maim

Bassam Sidiki talks about the right to maim, the titular concept in Jasbir K. Puar’s book, and the related concept of debility. He explains how these concepts have changed how the field of disability studies orients itself. References are made to Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb’s new book Epidemic Empire, the work of Anita Ghai, Tommy Orange’s novel There There, Lauren Berlant’s concept of ‘slow death’, and Alexander Weheliye’s Habeas Viscus.

Bassam is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Michigan, where he studies postcolonial studies, disability studies and health humanities. His scholarship appears or is forthcoming in Journal of Medical Humanities, Literature and Medicine, and Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. Of particular relevance to this episode is his recent article on the novel Anatomy of a Soldier.

Image: Saronik Bosu

Music used in promotional material: “Rough” by Natus

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