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Type: Thesis
Title: Posthuman Legal Subjectivity in the Anthropocene: Introducing the Cosmic Person
Author: Norman, Jana L.
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: Adelaide Law School
Abstract: The legal philosophy known as Earth Jurisprudence sets a countercultural objective for Western law and legal theory by valuing the establishment of a mutually beneficial human–earth relationship over the satisfaction of exclusively human interests. I propose a novel strategy for meeting this objective: reimagining the human in the human–earth relationship. The original contribution of this thesis is the reconceptualisation of the human legal subject based on the non-dualised construct of human identity suggested by combining insights into the nature of reality from a variety of contemporary fields of scientific and critical inquiry. The project begins with an analysis of the traditional Western construct of human identity, which is structured as a dualism. In this view, humans are understood to be of a separate and superior order to nature. The thesis dissects the set of assumptions that conspire to form, in the first instance, a primary reason/nature dualism from which branch not only the singular human/nature dualism, but also an interlocking set of dualisms relegating non-human and some human Others to the underside of the hierarchy. A dynamic of radical discontinuity in the human–earth relationship is established by this complex, which precludes mutuality. I characterise thinking within and about Western law and legal theory as anthropocentric, given the anthropocentrism of Western culture. The extent to which this is true is examined in this thesis, first in a discussion of an emblematic case in which the fate of particular non-human subjects is decided without regard for the needs and interests of the same, then in a critique of Earth Jurisprudence in which I conclude that the philosophy is insufficiently disruptive of the foundational reason/nature dualism. The crux of this thesis is the contention that systems can be transformed by strategic intervention at key points at which the system is upheld or perpetuated. I argue that the legal subject is one such point in the Western social imaginary of mastery and control. More specifically, I argue that a construct of human identity, the master identity, to which the prevailing concept of the human legal subject (the rational, autonomous individual) corresponds, keeps the anthropocentrism of this system in play. Each of the contemporary concepts-in-use of the human legal subject has an origin story and various disciplines from which it draws its supporting ontological, epistemological and ethical commitments. The thesis draws from new cosmology, Big History, new materialisms and posthuman critical theory to tell the origin story for the proposed alternative legal subject, the Cosmic Person. By accounting for the earthliness of human existence, by which I mean the normative materiality of being embodied, embedded and entangled in a single plane of existence comprising a natureculture continuum, the Cosmic Person as legal subject takes into direct account the needs and interests of the whole community of life on Earth. Finally, the thesis examines the Waimea River Watershed Mediation Agreement as a case study in which the Cosmic Person is prefigured in a performance of posthuman normativity.
Advisor: Babie, Paul
Burdon, Peter
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, Adelaide Law School, 2019
Keywords: Legal subject
Earth Jurisprudence
critical ecological feminism
new materialism
posthuman critical theory
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