Stuart J McLean
My work mobilizes anthropology, art, literature and philosophy to ask: what new possibilities for thinking and living might result from extending the notion of creativity beyond the human realm? As the biological and physical sciences no less than the various ‘new materialisms’ current across humanities disciplines serve to remind us, the worlds that humans often pride themselves on creating are not and have never been exclusively human but are dependent upon and inflected by a multitude of other than human powers and presences, including animals, plants, geological formations, weather systems and a range of humanly manufactured artifacts fashioned from a variety of materials. I argue that paying closer attention and giving explicit recognition to such presences involves taking seriously not only the findings of contemporary science but also art and literature as sources of knowledge and understanding of the world. To this end my work seeks to blur accredited boundaries not only between academic and creative writing (including prose fiction and poetry) but also between writing and other expressive genres (audio-visual and performative). I approach anthropology not as the study of an objectified humanity but as the immanent exploration of alternative possibilities of collective existence, new ways of being human and other than human. I seek to learn both from anthropology’s history of engagements with other, non-Western traditions of human world making, in which agency, personhood and sentience, along with distinctions between humans and other beings, may be configured and distributed in radically different ways, and from art and literature as engagements with the materiality of media that always have the capacity to exceed or disrupt the human projects enacted through them. These might include paint, stone, celluloid, the body of the performer or - most strikingly in the case of poetry - the rhythmic and phonic ‘substance’ of language. My work asks – and attempts to show -what might happen to anthropology and to the humans it purports to study if this other then human life of the materials of ‘culture’ (with which humans are inextricably entangled yet which remains irreducible to their intentions and purposes) were given its due.