Why I use the term nonhuman instead of more-than-human or other-than human
Note: I will be adding more to this page in the coming weeks. Below are some initial notes and sources for what I mean when I engage the terms.
I use the term nonhuman throughout my work, rather than other-than-human or beyond-human. The latter two phrases are currently used in social sciences and humanities fields to indicate that humans are not above or “better than” other entities. Moreover, Indigenous scholars and writers that I know and deeply respect engage the terms more-than-human and/or beyond-human to indicate respect and elder status to various plants, animals, insects, lands, waters, etc., feeling the term "nonhuman' is dismissive and/or places these species and elements in lower status or rank.
For my relational practices, “non” is not seen as lesser. Rather it is powerful, honorific, and generative This is explained further in the Nourishing Negation interstice in my dissertation and forthcoming book - I have excerpted a section for you below.
The text I am referring to and inspired by is “Nourishment by the Negative: National Subalternity, Antagonism, and Radical Democracy,” By Joseba Zulaika, from Empire and Terror.
Mari has been framed in Zulaika's chapter as a mythical witch queen, in other collections she is a mythological goddess. I want to (re)code that – rooting her as an elemental force of and for particular places and spaces in our region, not as a mythical deity or abstracted concept. While she is rooted in Euskal Herria, protocols for engagement with her and nourishing her are flexible and mobile. I am looking forward to speaking in Euskara in Basque Country, to learn more about these ways of being in our Indigenous language, and how to engage these when we travel to other lands, waters, and digital spaces.
During my last visit to Lapurdi, I had an “aha” moment for relation-oriented ontologies, which happened as I was running through a cave of hers. This had to do with musing about what I didn’t want, focusing on my breathing, then what I was struggling to articulate came into form suddenly. There are tales of shepherds walking into he caves by the ocean (there are many in and around Biarritz like this) and seeing hundreds of empty cups, chalices, and bowls. When asked why they are not filled, Mari replies that they are – filled with “no”.
Ez and eza here have many valances that elude English. I was taught that what was in her cups was not nothing in the English-language sense: it was filled with space. Her caves (another “space place” among the rocks and ocean) are filled with potentials, rich with things in-motion that many cannot see…but the ongoing act of ezis as close as we - women and genderfluid humans and nonhumans associated w/Mari - can get to making this legible to others.
...Zulaika frames nourishment by the negative within European political contexts in this chapter, but much of what it touches on is beyond those markers:
There can be no libertarian conception of politics as long as one party tries to dominate the other side intellectually or politically by holding onto an ultimate foundation of the social. “Nourishment by the negative” will always be the starting point for such a political project—as negation is the primary step in the creation of a new process.[p. 135]
Taking relational networks and flows alongside negation as starting points for political projects, and heeding the call of Afrofuturist and Indigenous Futurisms to imagine into being other worlds, other communities:
What does my Basque/Euskalduna worldmaking look like when negation is the generative start?
What does this dissertation writing and research look like with eza as their beginning?
The last sections of this Interstice are my engagement with steps of negation, the acts of having to refute and negate activated my own processes of holding these Western methodologies, weighing them and the associated ontological pulls, then taking in useful kinetic energy while refuting the need to constantly carry them along as ‘proof’.
These processes of negation eventually cleared enough space to cultivate different ways of sensing and futures-relations. Tuck and Gaztambide-Fernández articulate futurity as ways of knowing about and relating to futures. Futurity is not merely another way of saying future, rather it is “a lens to shake up the dominant, linear and causal way of speaking about and tracing relationships between past, present and future.”[p. 80]
Taking into account my articulations of ez, the moment after the exhale is a pause that resists the urge to hurry and progress in linear fashion. This shakes up dominant paradigms – one small pause at a time - before the next inhale, supporting cycles that breathe (re)newed worlds into being.