Bring your own human. This was the instruction (and name) for our workshop in September 2019. It is a simple, short and sophisticated instruction. As soon as you start thinking more about what to do, several questions quickly loom over you. Are you going to bring a fully-grown human or a human that just started walking on its own? Will you bring an entire human or maybe just a microbe on its pinky finger? Maybe you would rather like to convey a feeling of being human or let your audience become aware of the fact that they are humans experiencing right now.

 

Reflexive teams and modalities for discussing humans

To play with the format of the workshop, the idea of working in reflexive teams inspired us. Our version looked like this:

  1. One of us presented a human
  2. The presenter chose a modality
  3. While the presenter remained silent, the rest of the group discussed the human from the chosen modality, and
  4. The presenter reflected on the group discussion and/or presentation before we moved on to the next humans

We sketched out three modalities for engaging with our humans. Each represents a taxonomic level:

  • ‘The hermeneutic disciple’ – understanding the human
    g. The human’s qualities, agency, boundaries, possibilities for development, vulnerabilities etc.
  • ‘The eager intellectual’ – analysing the human
    g. the human’s relation to findings in microbiome research, problems and possibilities in societal relations, power relations, well-being
  • ‘Old male academic’ – discussing and assessing the human
    g. truth claim, ethical considerations and political implications

 

What happened to our humans?

Our workshop filled up with humans. In the room. On display in a video. In a sensorial musical experience. Through post cards. In numbers. With academic words. Did they talk together? Yes, I think they did. However, they did not have to look like each other or even to talk the same language to do so. This was not the aim of the workshop. Rather, it was about encouraging our discussions and ways of relating to each other’s experiencing, developing humans. Primarily, the workshop started a process that asks: what do we mean when we refer to a human – and how does this matter in our collaborative research practice?

 

“Nervous system, sort of.” by Megan Bird. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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