MUSEUM OF NONHUMANITY DECLARES THAT DEHUMANIZATION IS HISTORY
By Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson
A new temporary museum is touring the world. The museum’s 70 minute exhibit presents the history of the distinction between humans and other animals, and the way that this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings. Throughout history, declaring a group to be nonhuman or subhuman has been an effective tool for justifying slavery, oppression and genocide. Conversely, differentiating humans from other species has paved the way for the abuse of natural resources and other animals. In each location the museum hosts an extensive lecture program in which civil-rights and animal-rights organizations, academics, artists, and activists propose paths to a more inclusive society.
Museum of Nonhumanity stands as a monument to the call to make dehumanization history and to the start of a new, more inclusive era. Museum of Nonhumanity opened first in Helsinki, Finland, in 2016, and has since opened also in Santarcangelo, Italy and Momentum Biennale, Norway. The project was launched by History of Others, a collaboration between the writer Laura Gustafsson and the visual artist Terike Haapoja.
Examples of Exhibition Texts:
(a) In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual”, shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.
(b) As used in this section, the term “born alive”, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being “born alive” as defined in this section.
Constitution of the United States, General Provisions: “Person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” as including born-alive infant.
1 An object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to.
1.1 (things) Personal belongings or clothing.
2 An inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being.
2.1 (with adjective) A living creature or plant.
‘the sea is the primal source of all living things on earth’
2.2 (with adjective) Used to express one's feelings of pity, affection, approval, or contempt for a
person or animal.
...if they thought as we do, they would have an immortal soul like us. This is unlikely, because
there is no reason to believe it of some animals without believing it of all, and many of them
such as oysters and sponges are too imperfect for this to be credible.
René Descartes to the Marquess of Newcastle, November 23 1646
But the question of whether to count slaves in the population was abrasive. After some contention, antislavery forces gave way to a compromise by which three-fifths of the slaves would be counted as population for purposes of representation (and direct taxation). Slave
states would thus be perpetually overrepresented in national politics; provision was also added for a law permitting the recapture of fugitive slaves, though in deference to republican scruples the word slaves was not used.
A human being regarded as an individual.
1.1 (In legal or formal contexts) an unspecified individual.
The difference between man and woman is the difference between animal and plant; the animal
is closer in character to man, the plant to woman
G.W.F. Hegel: Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1820
1 Showing gentleness, kindness, and affection:
‘he was being so kind and tender’
2 (Of a part of the body) sensitive to pain:
‘the pale, tender skin of her forearm’
2.1 (Of a plant) easily injured by severe weather and therefore needing protection.
2.2 Requiring tact or careful handling.
3 (Of food) easy to cut or chew; not tough.
4 Young, inexperienced, or vulnerable.
...tame animals have a better nature than wild, and all tame animals are better off when they are ruled by man; for then they are preserved. Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.
Where then there is such a difference as that between soul and body, or between men and animals (as in the case of those whose business is to use their body, and who can do nothing better), the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master.
Aristotle: Politics, 350 B.C.E
A building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and