Effluence, “waste” and African Humanism: extra-anthropocentric being and human rightness*

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I propose a extra-anthropocentric contextualisation of normative human rights as human rightness. To undo the normative construction of the human, I turn to a theory of the effluent. I argue effluent communities, defined as communities who have never depended on the state, re-envision normative human rights. Effluent communities suggest the necessity for a rethinking of the centrality of the state in Butlerian conceptions of precarity and grievability, since effluent communities have never found the state to be a source of such security. Further, I observe that this decentring of the state points to limitations in forms of postcolonial critical resistance that pose the state (be it colonial or postcolonial) as an adversary; or simply deconstruct the impossibility of the state’s support of the human through postmodernist scepticism. I analyse Mphahlele’s specific reading of African Humanism, demonstrating that it offers a way to grieve material being that is extrinsic to the lenses of the state, racially inflected abjection and subject/object-human/non-human animal binaries. Rather than name a set of effluent communities, I propose an exemplary bearing witness to the material dying/dead, instantiating what is commonly regarded as waste, if not toxic dirt, as the occasion for a practice of extra-anthropocentric human rightness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-178
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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