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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3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

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