susan melrose: before the posthuman can take [its] place: performing place and person in the early 21st century

What is at stake, in terms of representation, when I write "we" - as though unproblematically; and proceed, then, to predicate that subject - as in, for example, "we became posthuman"? In this paper I attempt to 'rehearse' some of the implications of that question itself in the light of recent events on the world stage, while also recognising, as I do so, that "we", used in much published writing emerging from the University, is also a rhetorical convention, as is the use of the (dehistoricizing) present tense, along the lines: "Freud argues that...".

Is it impertinent to want to enquire here, after events of September 2001, into the reach and the appropriateness of the ways in which some of us conventionally refer, and of easy recourse to the eternal present (tense), in much writing identifying itself as 'theoretical'? Some of us refer easily to 'historical context', without considering perhaps either the 'history' of 'theory', or the geographical and epistemological reach of 'context', as we do so. I came to these sorts of questions in part because I have recently begun to re-read a number of texts concerned, each in their own way (but obliquely), with the post-WWII history of the twentieth century. These range from the earliest publications of Barthes, up to N.K. Hayles' How We Became Posthuman (1999). They demonstrate - or perhaps I should note that my own early 21st century re-reading (or reconfiguring) of these texts demonstrates - a certain continuum of perspective and agenda; a critical project or range of critical projects which might now be characterised as Euro-centric (and in some cases Americo-centred). Some of the later texts are fin de siècle or '(pre-)millennial' - as is the case not only for Hal Foster's Return of the Real (1996) and Hayles' How We Became Posthuman (1999), but equally for Derrida's On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (1997/2001). Each turns out to be (whether it acknowledges this or not - and often it does not) concerned with geographically and economically - determined values, modes of action, and approaches to that subject identified by Hal Foster to be late or advanced capitalist. In this sense, most, while applauding inclusiveness, exclude otherness. My own references to these texts, it is important to recognise, are calculated in terms of what has been called the Christian calendar. Might we not need, after 11 September, to ask what else is 'staged', by this wholly banal exercise in inclusion/exclusion?

Susan Melrose is Professor of Performance Arts at Middlesex University. After completing doctoral research at the Sorbonne (Nlle) in the early 1980s she established and ran postgraduate profession/vocation-linked theatre and performance courses at Central School of Speech and Drama and Rose Bruford College London. She has taught in Turkey, France, Tunisia and Australia and counts comparative performance studies and cultural diversity among her research interests.

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