Our project aims to explore the new concept of agency that emerges from the posthuman wound as reflected in the North American literature of the 21st century, from a theoretical framework that combines the most current postulates of postclassic trauma studies, with studies of critical posthumanism, with special attention to new materialism. Both critical posthumanism and trauma studies question and revise the traditional definition of the human being as autonomous, exceptional, rational, and with a defined sense of agency, clearly distinct and dominant over other forms of life. Both theoretical frameworks share an interest in subjectivity, agency, corporeality and relationship with the other, and have developed simultaneously in recent decades. However, while trauma studies understand subjectivity as fragmented and in need of reconstruction, critical posthumanism sees in this fragmentation an opportunity to expand the boundaries of being and create a posthuman space of radical vulnerability that allows for a real encounter with the other. This new space of vulnerability and sense of (post)human agency results from the contradictions that emerge from the encounter between the paradigm of posthumanism and the paradigm of trauma in the twenty-first century. Contemporary North American fiction seems to have found in this posthuman wound a new realm to explore in present times. Special attention will be paid to wounds that affect the sense of agency such as ecological vulnerability, digital vulnerability, the economy of attention, surveillance capitalism, climate change, body commodification, artificial intelligence, animal rights, and 4IR technologies.
Taking into consideration the theoretical frameworks mentioned above and the current understanding of the self as extended throughout the digital media and its intra-relations with a vibrant environment in all of its dimensions, the main working hypothesis of our project proposal centers on the conception of the posthuman being as wounded and traumatized in ways that differ importantly from earlier understandings of the human. On the one hand, identity and self are self-consciously constructed in and by means of the media and information technologies, turning into inforgs in the infosphere, building up a simulacrum whereby individuals lose track of their own essence and the boundaries of their physical embodiment. On the other hand, the already posthuman self has lost the shelter of exceptionalism and its well-defined borders as it becomes aware of its inevitable intra-relation with the more than human world. Furthermore, both technology and the environment are inextricably linked as showcased in the geological studies giving rise to the widely discussed notion of the Anthropocene and threatening future scenarios of media fossils and planet-scale devastation, and the risk narratives that go with it. Our project thus seeks to further our contribution to knowledge on the ways 21st century North American fiction represents and raises awareness of these perils while providing, in many cases, a productive interpretation of the vulnerability of the posthuman self as inclusive openness to the other.