Rethinking Posthumanist Subjectivity: Technology as Ontological Murder in European Colonialism

Thomas Dekeyser*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper centres the colonial pre-histories of ‘the digital’ to complicate posthumanist theorisations of subjectivity. Posthumanism helpfully undercuts human exceptionalism by presenting subjectivity as always-already co-constituted by technology. However, this paper argues that it insufficiently engages the human as the historico-political effect of negating the assumed non-technological colonial Other. Focusing on liberal humanism between the 16th and 19th centuries, the paper theorises the modern human as bound up in ‘technological onticide’. The presumed absence of technology became a (theo-centric, ratio-centric, bio-centric) measure of the Other’s sub-humanity, at the same time as this Other was expected to be humanised through its technologisation. An emphasis on technological onticide complicates universalist theories of subjectivity that take it as always a matter of human-technology co-constitution. The paper argues that, to confront the legacies of ontological murder, conceptual room needs to be made for inhuman, counterhuman or unhuman theories of subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-89
Number of pages17
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • colonialism
  • decolonisation
  • digitality
  • inhuman
  • posthumanism
  • subjectivity
  • technology


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