Unbinding from Humanity: Nandipha Mntambo’s Europa and the Limits of History and Identity

Abstract This article shows that the question of “Historical Thinking and the Human” demands expanding the field of the philosophy of history. What I propose is to investigate the issue from two perspectives: firstly, by positioning it in the broader philosophical context, one that increasingly transcends the boundaries of the humanities to enter the realm of the life sciences; and secondly, by drawing on a wider range of analytical material than has usually been the case in classic works in the philosophy of history. I will critically reflect upon history’s anthropocentric biases, highlighting the need to develop an alternative to history. My thinking is aligned, on the one hand, with notions of the agency of images that have emerged from art criticism and visual culture studies (W.J.T. Mitchell), and, on the other hand, with the idea of theriomorphism, which I explore in terms of new animism, new totemism and philosophical ethology (Roberto Marchesini). In my analysis of works by the South African artist Nandipha Mntambo (cowhides and Europa), I argue that a future-oriented redefinition of the human should transcend the limited categories that have emerged within the framework of history understood as a Eurocentric approach to the past rooted in Greco-Judaic-Christian tradition.