Prof. dr. Rosi Braidotti

Rosi Braidotti is a resident KNIR fellow in the early summer of 2016. During her stay at the KNIR she will teach a Masterclass on Deleuze and the Posthuman, deliver a keynote lecture at the 2016 Deleuze Conference hosted at Roma Tre University, and participate in a KNIR symposium centered around her work on the Posthuman.

Rosi Braidotti (1954) is a globally recognized authority in contemporary philosophy, whose work is positioned at the intersection with social and political theory, cultural politics, gender, feminist theory and ethnicity studies. She is a Distinguished University Professor and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University, as well as an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She received honorary doctorates from the universities of Helsinki (2007) and Linköping (2013) and was awarded a knighthood by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands (2005). Her work has been translated in more than 20 languages and all the main books in at least three languages other than English.

Braidotti’s publications have consistently been placed in continental philosophy, The core of her interdisciplinary work consists of four interconnected monographs on the constitution of contemporary subjectivity, with special emphasis on the concept of difference within the history of European philosophy and political theory. Braidotti’s philosophical project investigates how to think difference positively, which means moving beyond the dialectics that both opposes it and thus links it by negation to the notion of sameness. This is evidenced in the philosophical agenda set in her first book Patterns of Dissonance: An Essay on Women in Contemporary French Philosophy, 1991, which gets developed further in the trilogy that follows. In the next book, Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, 1994 (second edition, revised and expanded, 2011), the question is formulated in more concrete terms: can gender, ethnic, cultural or European differences be understood outside the straightjacket of hierarchy and binary opposition? Thus the following volume, Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming, 2002, analyses not only gender differences, but also more categorical binary distinctions between self and other, European and foreign, human and non-human (animal/ environmental/ technological others). The conclusion is that a systematic ambivalence structures contemporary cultural representations of the globalised, technologically mediated, ethnically mixed, gender-aware world we now inhabit. The question consequently arises of what it takes to produce adequate cultural and political representations of a fast-changing world and move closer to Spinozist notions of adequate understanding. The ethical dimension of Braidotti’s work on difference comes to the fore in the last volume of the trilogy, Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics, 2006. Here she surveys the different ethical approaches that can be produced by taking difference and diversity as the main point of reference and conclude that there is much to be gained by suspending belief that political participation, moral empathy and social cohesion can only be produced on the basis of the notion of recognition of sameness. Braidotti makes a case for an alternative view on subjectivity, ethics and emancipation and pitches diversity against the postmodernist risk of cultural relativism while also standing against the tenets of liberal individualism.

Her most recent book is The Posthuman (Polity Press, 2013), which offers both an introduction and major contribution to contemporary debates on the posthuman. As the traditional distinction between the human and its others has blurred, exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human, The Posthuman starts by exploring the extent to which a post-humanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Rather than perceiving this situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities. She then analyzes the escalating effects of post-anthropocentric thought, which encompass not only other species, but also the sustainability of our planet as a whole. Because contemporary market economies profit from the control and commodification of all that lives, they result in hybridization, erasing categorical distinctions between the human and other species, seeds, plants, animals and bacteria. These dislocations induced by globalized cultures and economies enable a critique of anthropocentrism, but how reliable are they as indicators of a sustainable future? The Posthuman concludes by considering the implications of these shifts for the institutional practice of the humanities. Braidotti outlines new forms of cosmopolitan neo-humanism that emerge from the spectrum of post-colonial and race studies, as well as gender analysis and environmentalism. The challenge of the posthuman condition consists in seizing the opportunities for new social bonding and community building, while pursuing sustainability and empowerment.

Throughout her work, Braidotti asserts and demonstrates the importance of combining theoretical concerns with a serious commitment to producing socially and politically relevant scholarship that contributes to making a difference in the world. Influenced by philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and especially “French feminist” thinker Luce Irigaray, Braidotti has brought postmodern feminism into the Information Age with her considerations of cyberspace, prosthesis, and the materiality of difference. Braidotti also considers how ideas of gender difference can affect our sense of the human/animal and human/machine divides. Braidotti has also pioneered European perspectives in feminist philosophy and practice and has been influential on third-wave and post-secular feminisms as well as emerging posthumanist thought.