The Human

Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them

(Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth)


Conceptualisations of the Human have been dominated in European thought by the exclusionary forms of classical order representations of ‘Man’.

‘Man1’ (as identified by Sylvia Wynter) emerged out of the Renaissance as homo politicus and was reinvented in response to the European encounter with the inhabited geographies of the Americas. At this time the representation of human-as-religious was compelled along a secularising route to Man1 as the rational political subject. A revision of humanness later gave rise to the liberal homo oeconomicus, or Wynter’s ‘Man2’, formulated within the colonial episteme’s Darwinian distortions as divided between the naturally selected (Europeans) and the naturally “dysselected” (those racialised as naturally inferior). Sylvia Wynter’s work in particular destabilises Foucault’s critique of Man in that she centres the Colombian encounter of 1492 as being vital to the formulation of European representations of the Human which would epistemologically foreclose ways of being Human otherwise.

Anticolonial figures, including Fanon and Wynter, have pointed out not only “the profitable brutalities that attend the realisation of Man-as-human” but also that emancipatory struggles can become burdened with “the referent-we of Man” (McKittrick 2015). Hence the work of anticolonial scholars is in part intended to excavate the forms of humanness disavowed by the exclusionary categories of ‘Man’.


Essential Reading:

Wynter, Sylvia. 2003 “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation–An Argument,” CR: The New Centennial Review, 3 (3).


Further Reading:

Fanon, Frantz. (1965) The Wretched of the Earth. Macgibbon & Kee.

McKittick, Katherine (Ed.) (2015) Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Duke University Press.

Silva, Denise Ferreira da. (2007) Toward a Global Idea of Race. University of Minnesota Press.



What is missing from Foucault’s critique of Man?

What role did the European colonial endeavour play in the formulation and naturalisation of Man?

How should we begin to excavate the inclusive Human out of the post-Enlightenment Man in the global present?


Submitted by Lisa Tilley 

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