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Agency: Human and Non-Human
Recent discussions of non-human agency - the agency of “things” or of “actants” - have challenged the putative differences between human and non-human agency. But an insufficiently questioned picture of human agency continues to undermine attempts to make sense of non-human agency, and to think anew the relation between human and non-human agency, a task which has become all the more urgent as we come to grips with the Anthropocene. In this paper, I propose an alternative conception of agency that better captures what is distinctive to both human and non-human agency.
Nikolas Kompridis is Research Professor in Philosophy and Political Thought and Director of the Institute for Social Justice. He is the author of The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought (Bloomsbury, 2014) Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future (MIT, 2006), Philosophical Romanticism (Routledge, 2006), and over 50 articles on a very broad spectrum of topics in philosophy and political theory.
Originally trained as a musician (the University of Toronto and Yale University), he was the founder and director of the Canadian new music ensemble, Sound Pressure, during which time he worked with some of the world’s leading composers – Frederic Rzewski, Martin Bresnick, Louis Andriessen, and David Lang, among others. After a decade long-career in music he was drawn into an academic career, inspired by the Critical Theory tradition, which eventually took him to Frankfurt, where he worked with Jürgen Habermas as a postdoctoral fellow in the philosophy department at J.W. Goethe University. Drawing on the traditions of Critical Theory, Political Theory, Philosophical Romanticism, and American Pragmatism, his work has been concerned with rethinking the meaning of reason, critique, normativity, and agency from the perspective of his conceptions of “reflective disclosure” and “receptivity” (in Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future, and other writings). This larger project also involves rethinking democratic practices of collective self-reflection and democratic practices of institutional and cultural change.
He is currently completing two new books, Critique and Receptivity, and, Romanticism, Skepticism, and Philosophy. Among his future projects is an ambitious rethinking of what it means to be human in the age of the Anthropocene, beyond the limitations of both humanism and posthumanism. Other projects include a book on the philosophy of music (after Adorno) and a book on the filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard.
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (BIH) has strong links with the Institute for Social Justice; Costas Douzinas (Founding Director of BIH) and Jacqueline Rose (Current Acting Co-Director of BIH) are both Professorial Fellows.