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Humanities Encounters Science: Confronting the Challenge of Post-humanism

  • Ning Wang (a1)


Post-humanism has recently come to China and challenges traditional humanism and the humanities. The author first offers a reflection on the evolution of humanism in modern Chinese intellectual history. To the author, we are now in a ‘post-theoretical era’, in which the function of theory is no longer so powerful and ubiquitous as it used to be. It is then argued that the rise of the ‘post-humanist’ trend in the West during the past decades indicates that, in the present era, humankind is only one of many species on earth, whose existence and development, to a large extent, depend on natural law. At the same time, post-humanism tells us that humankind may no longer be able to control some of its own creations. The author concludes by calling for digital humanities to bridge the gap between science and humanities and to establish a new relationship between the two.



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1. Eagleton, T. (2004) After Theory (London: Penguin Books), p. 1.
2. In the Chinese context, humanism at least has three translations: renwenzhuyi, renbenzhuyi and rendaozhuyi. In this essay, I just prefer the first translation.
3. As for the so-called Chinese modernity, cf, Ning, Wang (2012) Translating modernity and reconstructing world literature. Minnesota Review, 2012(79), pp. 101112; Wang Ning (2012) Multiplied modernities and modernisms? Literature Compass, 9(9), pp. 617–622.
4. Pollock, G. (2011) What is posthumanism? Journal for Critical Animal Studies, IX(1/2), p. 235.
5. Wolfe, C. (2009) What Is Posthumanism? (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), p. 47.
6. Lyotard, J.-F. (1991) Rewriting modernity. In: G. Bennington and R. Bowlby. (Trans.) The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (Cambridge: Polity Press), p. 34.
7. Badmington, N. (2003) Theorizing posthumanism. Cultural Critique, 53, p. 18.
8. This report is made by the Department of Literary Creation and Research under the Chinese Writers Association, ‘Erlingyiwunian zhongguo wenxue fazhan zhuangkuang’ (The State of Development of Chinese Literature in 2015), People’s Daily, 3 May 2016.
9. Lopez, A., Rowland, F. and Fitzpatrick, K. (2015) On scholarly communication and the digital humanities: An interview with Kathleen Fitzpatrick. In: In The Library with the Lead Pipe, 14 January 2015.
10. Benjamin, W. (1968) The task of the translator. In: H. Zohn, (Trans.) H. Arendt, (Ed.), Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books), pp. 7273.


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