Rosi Braidotti is a philosopher and feminist theoretician who holds Italian and Australian citizenship – born in Italy and grew up in Australia, where she received degrees from the Australian National University in Canberra in 1977. She has taught at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands since 1988, when she was appointed as the founding professor in women’s studies. She has been a fellow in the school of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and continues to be the Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities.
Braidotti’s philosophical project investigates how to think difference positively, which means moving beyond the dialectics that both opposes it and thus links it by negation to the notion of sameness.
In her book, Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory (1994), Braidotti asks if gender, ethnic, cultural or European differences can be understood outside the straightjacket of hierarchy and binary opposition? Thus the following volume, Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming, 2002, analyses not only gender differences, but also more categorical binary distinctions between self and other, European and foreign, human and non-human (animal/ environmental/ technological others).
The ethical dimension of Braidotti’s work on difference comes to the fore in the last volume of the trilogy, Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics (2006), where she surveys the different ethical approaches that can be produced by taking difference and diversity as the main point of reference and concludes that there is much to be gained by suspending belief that political participation, moral empathy and social cohesion can only be produced on the basis of the notion of recognition of sameness.
Braidotti makes a case for an alternative view on subjectivity, ethics and emancipation and pitches diversity against the postmodernist risk of cultural relativism while also standing against the tenets of liberal individualism.
Her most recent book, “The Posthuman” (Polity Press, 2013) offers both an introduction and major contribution to contemporary debates on the posthuman. As the traditional distinction between the human and its others has blurred, exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human, “The Posthuman” starts by exploring the extent to which a post-humanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Rather than perceiving this situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities.
Braidotti then analyzes the escalating effects of post-anthropocentric thought, which encompass not only other species, but also the sustainability of our planet as a whole. Because contemporary market economies profit from the control and commodification of all that lives, they result in hybridization, erasing categorical distinctions between the human and other species, seeds, plants, animals and bacteria. These dislocations induced by globalized cultures and economies enable a critique of anthropocentrism, but how reliable are they as indicators of a sustainable future?
“The Posthuman” concludes by considering the implications of these shifts for the institutional practice of the humanities. Braidotti outlines new forms of cosmopolitan neo-humanism that emerge from the spectrum of post-colonial and race studies, as well as gender analysis and environmentalism. The challenge of the posthuman condition consists in seizing the opportunities for new social bonding and community building, while pursuing sustainability and empowerment.