Overcoming the objectification of nature in constitutive theories: Toward a transhuman, materialist theory of communication

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Abstract

A wide range of contemporary theories of communication understand reality to be socially constituted by means of discourse. These constitutive theories have been adopted by many scholars because of the obvious political benefit: these theories directly refute claims about the essential nature of sexual, racial and other differences that are used to legitimize oppressive social systems. However, in emphasizing the influence of culture and discourse, constitutive theories often position the natural world as something that is passive and malleable in relation to human beings. I argue that communication scholars should closely examine the affiliations between constitutive theories and material attempts to order the earth, to bring it into line with idealist discourses such as logic and geometry. While the political benefits of constitutive theories should not be ignored, neither should their possible relationship to environmental violence. Discourse has become the foundation for a new regime of truth; I seek to decenter the humanism implicit in that regime. Developing theories of communication which account for human immersion in the natural world, while simultaneously avoiding determinism, requires conceptualizing a transhuman dialogue. This essay works to account for the power of discursive and natural forces by deconstructing the ideal/material distinction and allowing for the inclusion of nonessentialized, nonhuman voices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-272
Number of pages29
JournalWestern Journal of Communication
Volume62
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1998

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics

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