Textual Practices as Already-Posthuman: Re-Imagining Text, Authorship and Meaning-Making in Higher Education

  • Lesley GourlayEmail author


Contemporary student academic engagement and textual practices are theorised and imagined in a range of complex and contradictory ways in Higher Education research, policy and practice. In this paper, I aim to explore these tensions, and draw out the effects that flow from what I argue are misleading, overly-abstract and ideologically-freighted humanist assumptions about the nature of texts, devices, the writer and the notion of authorship in the digital context in particular. I will trace what I characterise as a series of moves in the literature from a rejection of humanist abstraction towards a posthuman framing. In doing so, I review the contributions and ongoing diffractive potentials of New Literacy Studies (NLS), Actor-Network Theory (ANT), and theoretical challenges to the notion of spatiality and temporality as ‘context’ to practices. Turning to the work of Karen Barad, I consider the constructs of both phenomena and the apparatus, and the extent to which they may allow us to advance this theoretical move more fully, towards a recognition of the relationships between matter and meaning-making in the digital university and beyond. I conclude with implications for policy and practice.


Digital literacy Student engagement Actor-network theory Posthumanism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCL Institute of Education (IOE)LondonUK

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