COVID-19 and the Organization of Anthropocentricism

Top left to right: Dr Charles Barthold, Dr Matthew Cole, Prof Daniel Nyberg Bottom left to right: Dr Caroline Clarke, Prof Kate Kenny

On 27 November, the Whitaker was delighted to host the live webinar COVID-19 and the Organization of Anthropocentricism. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the pandemic in academia. A compelling question not being asked, however, is ‘how on earth did we get here?’  More importantly, how can we stop ourselves from returning to such a situation in the future? We suggest that anthropocentricism (humans placing themselves at the centre of the world) lies at the heart of the multiple issues that created the conditions of possibility for COVID 19 to emerge.  Anthropocentrism is also linked to a profoundly patriarchal tendency to exercise domination over different Others and consider them as mere objects to be managed.

By drawing from different disciplines we may be able to disrupt and challenge damaging organizational and business practices, especially within the animal-industrial complex. Central to this is the question of whether academics in these disciplines are complicit in promoting a form of agnotology (the making and unmaking of ignorance) by endorsing approaches to corporate social responsibility, business ethics and sustainability, that obfuscate these issues.  The speciesism that underpins the animal-industrial complex has not received the attention that academia bestows on other ‘isms’. The consequences of this neglect are significant.

In this webinar we explore how posthumanist perspectives can be harnessed as an antidote to anthropocentricism and speciesism, to promote an awakening– or reconstitution– of how to live a good and sustainable life with all those we share planet earth with.  COVID 19 is one of many zoonotic diseases associated with our interference with animals specifically, and the biosphere in general. Such a disease was long predicted.  Without radical changes to destructive profit-maximising strategies, other zoonotic diseases will engender frequent and more severe pandemics, while the inseparable issue of climate change promises horrific events, even extinction.

The good news is that all these problems have been made by us, and so they can also be unmade by us.

The webinar included presentations from four experts followed by a question and answer period. The event is available to watch back below.

Charles Barthold
Senior Lecturer in HRM and Organisation Studies, The Open University, UK

Caroline Clarke
Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies, The Open University, UK

Daniel Nyberg  
Professor of Management and Organisation Studies, Newcastle Business School, Australia

Matthew Cole
Lecturer in Criminology, The Open University, UK

Chaired by Professor Kate Kenny
NUI Galway