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Critical posthumanism for all: a call to reject insect speciesism

Hannah Gunderman (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Richard White (Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 24 June 2020

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021




The authors articulate a posthuman politics of hope to unpack the richly embodied personal experiences and web of relationalities formed through repeated encounters with insects. Interrogating insect speciesism teaches to extend the authors’ compassion and live symbiotically with insects. The authors focus on the narrative of insect decline as impacted by colonialism and white supremacy, enabling insect speciesism to flourish alongside exploitation of other human and nonhuman creatures.


The authors pay particular attention the use of everyday language and framing of insects to “other” them, thereby trivializing and demonizing their existence, including “it's *just* a bug” or “they are pests.” Insect speciesism employs similar rhetoric reinforcing discrimination patterns of other nonhuman animals and humans. The authors focus on the unexpected encounters with insects in domestic spaces, such as an office desk, and through the multispecies space of “the allotment.”


The authors reflect on two possible posthuman futures: one where insect speciesism is entrenched and unrepentant; the second a decolonized society where we aspire to live a more compassionate and non-violent existence amidst these remarkable and brilliant creatures we owe our very existence on Earth.


One of the most profound lessons of the crisis-driven epoch of the Anthropocene is this: our existence on Earth is intimately bound with the flourishing of all forms of life. This includes complex multispecies encounters between humans and insects, an area of enquiry widely neglected across the social sciences. Faced with imminent catastrophic decline and extinction of insect and invertebrate populations, human relationships with these fellow Earthlings are deserving of further attention.



Gunderman, H. and White, R. (2021), "Critical posthumanism for all: a call to reject insect speciesism", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 3/4, pp. 489-505.



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