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Progressing Critical Posthuman Perspectives in Health Sociology


McLeod, K and Fullagar, S, Progressing Critical Posthuman Perspectives in Health Sociology, 30, (3) ISSN 1446-1242 (2021) [Edited Journal]

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DOI: doi:10.1080/14461242.2021.1990710


We start by acknowledging we are writing on the unceded lands of the palawa and pakana peoples of lutrawita (Tasmania), and the Yugambeh and Kombumerri peoples. This is important because contemporary sociological paradigms such as posthumanism, the subject of this editorial, sometimes overlook how the politics of colonisation continues to shape academic knowledge production (which this editorial goes on to discuss).

The figure of the post ‘human’ is entangled in a set of dilemmas that are useful for informing sociological ways of thinking through health matters in more than human worlds. The complexities of living in a COVID society (Lupton & Willis, 2021; Matthewman & Huppatz, 2020), the challenges of climate change and persistent inequalities all emphasise the need to better understand the material and discursive forces shaping the conditions of health for people who exist in a dynamic relation with the planet. Posthuman approaches are generative here, making visible the more than human forces and power relations that constitute subjectivity and health practices (Fox & Alldred, 2016; Pyyhtinen, 2016; Willcox, Hickey-Moody, & Harris, 2021). Moving beyond the sociological parameters of social structure and human agency, posthumanism challenges us to engage more deeply with the onto-ethical-epistemological assumptions that inform all research approaches (Barad, 2007). Troubling long-held humanist assumptions about health, illness and wellbeing also calls for sociologists to attune – theoretically and methodologically - to the entangled relations or ecologies that instantiate realities. The articles in this special issue explore a range of posthuman dilemmas across diverse health issues as they grapple with the ethical, ontological and epistemological relations of knowing and doing health.

In this editorial, we discuss how the papers in this special issue harness posthuman approaches to further a range of productive lines of enquiry and knowledge-making for health sociology. Using posthuman perspectives enables the authors to generate health sociology knowledge beyond humanist assumptions, ideals and logics and rethink health care, experiences, subjects and interventions. We go on to argue that although posthumanism enables health sociologists to progress particular agendas, it is important to further problematise the posthuman decentring of the human by bringing sustained attention to bear on the ethical and political implications of this approach to knowledge-making in health. In the latter half of this editorial, we explore three strategies for responding to the limitations, gaps and silences in posthuman thinking about health that have been inspired by Indigenous, decolonial and feminist scholars with respect to unlearning Western privilege (traditions, logics and notions of selfhood, etc). The strategies include orientating to posthuman thinking as a provincial (Meghji, 2021; Mignolo & Walsh, 2018), pluriversal (Blaser & de la Cadena, 2018; Mignolo, 2000), and situated (Moreton-Robinson, 2013; Todd, 2016) endeavour. We suggest these strategies facilitate critical questioning about remaking the post ‘human’ in relation to the assumptions and practices that shape sociological research processes. Approaching the post ‘human’ as a productive problem is a means to progress the conversation between health sociology and posthumanism.

Item Details

Item Type:Edited Journal
Keywords:health sociology, posthumanism
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Sociology
Research Field:Sociological methodology and research methods
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:McLeod, K (Dr Kim McLeod)
ID Code:148501
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2022-01-17
Last Modified:2022-07-11

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