Tuesday, 18 June 2013

CFP: Being Beyond Boundaries: Dissolving (Species) Hierarchy in Contemporary Culture

John Galsworthy Building, Penrhyn road, Kingston University, Kingston, Surrey KT1 2EE

Saturday 5th October
Kingston University, London

In her recent work on human-animal encounter, Donna Haraway asks us to consider ‘who “we” will become when species meet’. At the centre of Haraway’s question is a concern for the mutuality of species, and a desire to reconfigure those Enlightenment inheritances which dialectically position ‘animal’ as the other of ‘human’. Such interests demand a reappraisal not merely of humanist discourse, but also of related questions regarding ethics and responsibility.

This one day symposium hosted in conjunction with Cultural Histories at Kingston aims to consider how contemporary cultural texts in their broadest definition (literature, performance, creative writing, film and television) not only engage with the human-animal encounter, but also how this relationship might speak to a transformative social discourse in terms of ‘beingist’ agendas that interrogate not only humanist allegiances, but also more traditional identity politics.

Confirmed guest speaker: Professor John Mullarkey, Professor of Film and Television, Kingston University.

The organisers welcome 20 minute papers that speak to any aspect of this theme, which might include, but are not limited to:

Animal-human encounters
Animal as metaphor/anti-metaphor
Animal-human transformations
Performing the ‘animal’
The animal other in popular culture
'Beingist’ interrogations of identity politics
Revisions of humanism/ posthumanism/ transhumanism in the context of animal encounters
Speculative realism and the animal
Animal ethics/responsibility
Animals and anti-correlationist perspectives

The organisers intend to put together an edited collection based on the symposium theme. Selected presenters may be invited to submit essays based on their papers.

Please send 200 word abstracts to Sara Upstone and Heidi James-Dunbar by 15 July 2013.

Enquiries to Sara Upstone


  1. What a fascinating subject to explore... is this also being considered in terms of potential contact with extraterrestrials? Because I notice that far more often we are drawn to images of aliens as the ultimate "other" -- less than human, no matter how intelligent (see "Aliens" and "Predator"), casting them as perpetual Grendels to our Beowulf, than as the "wise helper" -- as in E.T. or Mr. Spock. In fact in the case of Star Trek, it's quite clear than in order to be presented as a non-monster, you must look as human as possible. (I realize there are budgetary constraints for a TV show... but I notice there are very few truly non-humanoid presentations of aliens that are not also monsters, even in big-budget movies.) I wonder, when our species is confronted with another intelligent species out there, whether they will become alien/other/animals in our eyes, or we in theirs? Or both?

  2. I can't say much about the focus of the conference itself - you'd have to ask the organizers. But I think there's a lot of interesting crossover in the way we present aliens and the way we view animals. As you say, the more human another species looks, the less monstrous we tend to view it (so... snakes=bad, penguins=good is like Spock=good, alien queen=bad.)

    As for future encounters with intelligent life... I guess everything will depend on who gets to tell the story. They'll be the alien in our version; we'll be the alien in theirs.