What is Anthropocentrism?
Short Answer – Believing that human beings are superior to other life forms, specifically plants and other animals.
Anthro or Anthrop – comes from Greek meaning man or human.
Centric – Latin word forming element meaning having a center of a certain kind, pertaining to center; related to Greek word ‘Kentrikos’.
My lastest fascination is addressing the problems subjugation and institutional inequity create in our interpersonal relationships, particularly as boundaries to organization and potentially revolution. I realized that I have been thinking of this quandry too narrowly and the word ‘relationship’ needs to be addressed more broadly. This essay is in development but it begins to address anthropocentrism by thinking about LeVar Burton, Ruha Benjamin, and Toni Morrison, then moves to expanding our understanding of relationships by considering Noah Yuval Harari and Kim TallBear.
Terms & Concepts
Anthropology: The study of human socieites and cultures and their development. This field is massive and includes social anthro, linguistic anthro, physical/biological anthro, and archealogy. It is a discpline that seeks to study and understand human beings by using comparative techniques, theories, and processes of research to delve into human origins, human diversity, human cultures, and behavioral patterns across space and time. [Apoh’s Concise Anthropology: The Five Field Approach by Kendall Hunt Publishing, chapter one is available for reading for free. May or may not order this one.]
Anthropocene: Relating to or denoting the current geological age, in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. [Perhaps anthropocentrism is a natural consequence of the age we are in. That is one argument that begs another question. But how did we get to this age to begin with?]
Paleoanthropology: Also called Human Paleontology, an interdiscplinary branch of anthropology concerned with the origins and dvelopment of early humans. Fossils are assesed by the techniques of physical anthropology, comparative anatomy, and the theory of evolution.
In Progress: Addressing My Anthropocentrism
I am always sharing and engaging with scholars where and when I can on Twitter. So follow me there if anthropocentrism is interesting to you. And keep checking here. I will try to keep this page up-to-date with my sources, research questions, and methodology choices.
Anthropocentrism – Inital RFIs
Are homo sapiens predators? What did being human evovle from? How did ancient societies address humanity? How did that change as time and technology shifted? How did the early ages of ‘great’ civilization affect the behavior or definition of human? (Who was human in Egypt BCE? Were what we consider ‘human rights’ today, the rights of royalty then?)
How did ideas of humanity morph into policies that invested in dehumanization? Who or what or where did the awareness that we are more human than those humans erupt? How did being human or not shape the middle ages around the world? (Choose focus points.) How did the Crusades and other large scale religious/spiritual movements influence definitions of humanity?
How does being human inform our decision making? Is humanity the default or is it a privilege? What ‘natural rights’ do we associate with being human? (Do these rights make ‘common sense’?) What traditions have we assigned to ourselves in the name of our humanity? How close or far are we from concepts of human that can be inferred from early homo sapiens? How has colonialism redefined humanity? How do we behave as humans everyday? What do we consider inhuman?
This will always be changing, but I want to attempt to keep the sources and motivation in one place, so you can join the learning but also so that I can #CiteMySources.
Film & Tv
- “Concrete Cowboy” – Sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, a rebellious teen finds kindship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys. Directed by Ricky Staub; written by Ricky Staub and Dan Walser. [Netflix subscription is about $150 annually.]
- The Anthropocene: Age of Mankind, 2017. Created by Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen. Learned a lot about the ‘Age of Man’ or the Anthropocene. But this documentary is terribly sad. The tone and the way the camera moves makes it feel very dystopian. I will watch this a few times, there is something in the tone I want to understand, or capture. How are environmentalists grappling with their humanity? Are they in relation with the Earth the way indigenous thinkers are? I know there is a bend toward capitalism in America, but how are the Europeans looking at their relationship with the Earth? [This video is Free through VPRO, a Dutch public broadcast service that does an excellent job making their content accessible].
- Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
- Autonomy, 2019. There is an approaching revolution in transportation that relies on cars being ‘autonomous’. If the idea that we are human because we think is true, then what about the machines that are learning to think for us? Autonomously? Malcolm Gladwell had a lot to do with the film. [Available on Hulu which is $11.99 a month, shout out to my brother. Lol.]
Scholars / Lecturers
- From Many Came Few – Humanity’s Rise by Norwegian American & Professional Geogist, BJ Kristiansen from the Sheridan College Thickman Faulty Lecture Series. Humanity arose from its roots approximately 325,000 years ago. At that time there were eight to nine Human species alive on the planet, interacting with each other and our early ancestors. Over a period of 300,000 years they all vanished, except for one group…us. In this examination of our past, we will investigate each human species as fossil record portray them, and we will attempt to determine why we are the only species of humanity to survive into the present. [I loved this lecture. Many more watchings are in store. Entire lecture is free on YouTube, the lecturer is a beast but I didn’t find him elsewhere besides via writings. It was a precursory search though, nothing final.]
Scholars / Articles / Public Works
- “Addressing Antropocentrism in Nonhuman Ethics: Evolution, Morality, and Nonhuman Moral Beings” by Andrew Woodhall, submitted to University of Birmingham for PhD. Very exciting because he did a lot of leg work on this and the research is impeccable. Andrew is a Scottish philosopher and independent researcher focusing on anthropocentrism, interspecies and global ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, Hume, skepticism, and history of philosophy. [Full Text Article and most of Dr. Woodhall’s writing is available for free.]
- “Anthropocentrism: More than Just a Misunderstood Problem” by Helen Kopnina, Haydn Washington, Bron Taylor, John J Piccolo. Dr. Kopnina of The Hague University of Applied Science in Netherlands coordinates a sustainable business program and conducts research in three main areas: sustainability environmental education, and biological conservation. [Dr. Kopina has a ton of free work available for download]. Dr. Washington is an adjunct lecturer at UNSW Earth and Science Research Centre and he specializes in enviornmental sceince, debunking sustainability, and addressing the human reliance on nature. His work is harder to access, though he does co-author the article linked at the beginning of the bullet and it is free. Professor Bron Taylor has a very neat website that centralizes his work focusing on the study of nature-human relationships and the global struggle for biodiversity, conservation, environemntal sustainability, and deep ecology. John J Piccolo is a professor at Karlstad University in Sweden focused in conservation biology, ecology, environmental ethics, and fisheries. He’s a frequent writer with many articles in publication, so far there haven’t been many barriers to accessing his work.
- “Racial Fictions, Biological Facts: Expanding the Sociological Imagination through Speculative Methods” – Its 2064. A reparations initative that allows victims of police brutality to regenerate organs is well underway. A major new component of the initiative will be unveiled for the fiftieth anniversary of the Ferguson uprising, but the largest biobank in the country has been repeatedly hit by raiders intent on selling stem cells on the white market. Aiyanna and her team of Risers have to find a way to secure the cell depository and revitalize the movement. By Dr. Ruha Benjamin of Princeton University, published in the Catalyst, a journal on feminism, theory, and technoscience. Read the portion I remixed for the web here and more about how Ruha Benjamin can keep the Nazis away. [This article is free and Dr. Benjamin is a robust public scholar, meaning a lot of her work is accessible regardless of your price point. Follow @ruha9 on Twitter. She keeps you pretty up-to-date on what is happening around data and algorithimic justice when available, and she will drop public lectures at least once a month. http://www.ruhabenjamin.com for more on her books and articles.]
- Kim TallBear’s work as a window to the indigenous way of knowing about relational politics. [Full access to her substack is $50 annually, but she is another robust public scholar. Following her on Twitter is free and she will introduce you to indigenous scholars and scientists.]
- Yuval Noah Harari is a historian, philosopher, and best-selling author but public scholarship is not his bang. I rely heavily on two of his books in my thought processes currently; but, I am looking to expand my sources in this area and he is not the window to other scholars and scientists that the above cited Kim TallBear is. Harari does have some talks on his website.
- Toni. Morrison. I feel she needs no other introduction. I am concerning myself primarily with her anthropological bias. Morrison mostly posits that humans are superior beacuse of the arts including writing and literature. The book I am working from will probably contain all that I need from Toni, but she is a small look at a larger trend in Black thought.
- Audre Lorde writes about things we would consider explicitly human like eroticism or poetry. She links nicely with Toni in the manner that she appears to deal with humanity but this read is still [in progress].
- Rene Descartes’ infamous theory shortened into the perfect: “I think, therefore I am” will drive some of the research questions.
- Octavia Butler’s The Patternist Series examines Descartes’ theory on humanity in real terms. I may not be quoting her directly, but the world she conjured in the Patternist is not far from my mind as I investigate the ways we practice being human.
Scholars / Books / Publications
Currently pricing is based off amazon. Soon, I will have this linked up to better patrons. But for now, it is more important that I get an idea how much I spend on my independent research. [I do employ the library from time-to-time but books core to my research become part of my backbone, meaning that they are not meant to be given back. Lol. When I am forced to library, I will make note.]
- “Source of Our Self-Regard” by Toni Morrison [$12.99 on Kindle, $12.17 paperback.]
- “The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth” by The Red Nation [$10.69 on Kindle, $15 for the paperback, you already know I am buying the paperback.]
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari [$14.99 on Kindle, $11.40 paperback]
- “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari [$14.99 on kindle, $18.38 paperback]
- “Selected Works of Audre Lorde” edited by Roxane Gay [$9.99 on kindle, $14.69 paperback]
- “Wild Seed” by Octavia Butler
- “Mind of My Mind” by Octavia Butler
- “Clay’s Ark” by Octavia Butler
- “Patternist” by Octavia Butler
A Note On Research Methodology
The goal is developing a solid hypothesis on what drives modern anthropocentrism, is it marginalization? Has that shifted since the turn of the century (relatively young for a new ideological shift)? I would love to develop an experimental design that tested the hypothesis I come up with by survey and applied the resulting knowledge to the future. I would also love to vary the population surveyed by occupation, race, nationality, gender, all of that.
Thinking forward, is the declining birth rate a bad thing? Maybe it is time to learn to exist with less humans… I have a lot more reading around the subject to do, and this will be refined immeasureably. Because, clearly, I have questions.