OBS! Please REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT by sending an email to: the.posthumanities.hub[at]gmail.com
To end the anthropocene is a call to activism at a time where ways of living seem impossible to proscribe and the world’s many urban and natural environments and organisms are increasingly transforming, some becoming more vulnerable while others increase their exertion of power over global systems of information and control. During these ages it can be difficult to imagine new and multiple ways of existing where hopelessness and imagination exist simultaneously. Beyond the Posthuman, but firmly within this world, my concept of the Ahuman acknowledges we aren’t nonhuman, but devalues the term human and its thus far devastating consequences for the world in order to suggest vitalistic, perhaps even optimistic, ways to negotiate some of the difficulties in thinking and acting in a world where meaning and reality are tentative but material actuality and lives (of all varieties) are in need of novel modes of intervention and interaction for the liberation and creative freedom of all organisms and the ecology of the Earth as a whole. Collapsing activism, artistic practice and affirmative ethics, while introducing some radical contemporary ideas such as human extinction and vegan abolition this paper navigates the ways in which we must compose the human differently, specifically beyond nihilism and post – and trans-humanism and outside human privilege. This is in order to actively think and live with connectivity (actual not virtual), viscerally, with passion and grace, toward a new world. The irony of the apocalypse is that the world continues nonetheless. How can we live more ethically? How can the end of the human (even the posthuman) mean the end of human privilege as that which assists in opening the world to all life and to the human apocalypse being the birth of the world through deep ecology?
Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University. She is the author of Cinesexuality (2008), Posthuman Ethics (2012) and The Ahuman Manifesto (2020), the editor of The Animal Catalyst: Toward Ahuman Theory (2014) and the co-editor of Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema (2008), Deleuze and the Animal (2017) and Ecosophical Aesthetics (2018). She publishes extensively in the posthuman, queer theory, animal studies, horror film, and Continental Philosophy.
The event is organised in collaboration with the Konstfack Research Week 2020 – see the detailed programme here.
In the context of the current environmental crises, the degradation of natural resources transforms certain habitats into unliveable spaces, while social and economic inequalities and geopolitical, social and symbolic violence expose differential vulnerabilities of communities and individuals. Both global and local mechanisms of necropolitics (Mbembe 2003) exert their power over the lives and deaths of populations, making some deaths more grievable than others (Butler 2004). Simultaneously, unsustainable living conditions and environments contribute to increased mortality rates and the extinction of species.
While natural sciences emphasise the interdependence of human and the environment, Western cultural imaginaries keep drawing a dividing line between humans and nonhuman others, particularly visible in the context of death. The division is combined with a dual approach to death – human death in particular – namely, Western cultural frameworks tend to present human death either as a step towards a disembodied afterlife (Christian tradition), or as something to be eradicated in favour of survival (secular biomedical perspective).
Arguably, the questions of death have been present in Western philosophy since antiquity. While these perspectives explore both ontological and axiological aspects of death, they are primarily concerned with the death of human individuals, seen from the perspective of the sovereign subject. Furthermore, questions around death, human remnants and the cultural and medical aspects of dying have been studied from anthropological, sociological, historical, and psychological perspectives, next to the biomedical ones. Since its establishment as a research field in the 1970s, Death Studies has drawn attention to the questions of death, dying and mourning as complex and multifaceted phenomena that require interdisciplinary approaches.
Yet, the engagements with death, dying and mourning constitutive of conventional Death Studies’ research, have left many questions open insofar as they have often been governed by the normative notions of: the subject; continuing bonds; family relations and communities; rituals; and experiences of mourning, and bereavement. Individuals who do not fulfil the conditions of the normative idea of the human (usually imagined to be white, middle-class, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied) tend to be ignored in dominant stories on death, loss, grief and mourning. Moreover, the current environmental crisis seems to produce a growing consciousness about living in ecological and social proximities to death, which also gives rise to demands for more diverse, nuanced and inclusive stories of death, dying and mourning.
The emerging field of Queer Death Studies (QDS), which the conference creates an arena for, aims to fill these gaps in traditional Death Studies, by attending to issues of: diverse cultural, socio-political, historical, and economic conditions; entangled relations between human and the environment in the context of the Anthropocene; differential experiences of marginalised communities and individuals excluded from the hegemonic discourses on death, loss, grief and mourning, associated for example with the heteronormative model of family bonds; and, contemporary forms of necropolitics: mechanisms of power that force certain bodies into liminal spaces between life and death.
Against this background, QDS emerges as a transdisciplinary field of research that critically and (self) reflexively investigates and challenges conventional normativities, assumptions, expectations, and regimes of truths that are brought to life and made evident by death, dying and mourning. By bringing together conceptual and analytical tools grounded in feminist materialisms and feminist theorising broadly speaking (e.g. Braidotti 2006; MacCormack 2012), queer theory (e.g. Haritaworn, Kuntsman & Posocco 2014) and decolonial critique (e.g. Fanon 1965; Mignolo 2011), QDS strives to advance methodologies and understandings that critically and creatively attend to the problem of death, dying, and mourning in the current environmental, cultural, and socio-political contexts.
In order to search for broad inspirations for alternative articulations and stories which queer, that is, unpack and question the normativities (Chen 2012; Sandilands & Erickson 2012) that often frame contemporary discourses on death, dying and mourning, The First International Queer Death Studies Conference Death Matters, Queer(ing) Mourning, Attuning to Transitionings mobilises a transdisciplinary engagement involving not only academics, but also activists, artists and other practitioners. In the context of the conference, to queer issues of death, dying and mourning means to unhinge certainties, “undo normative entanglements and fashion alternative imaginaries” beyond the exclusive concern with gender and sexuality, often associated with the term “queer” (Giffney & Hird 2008, 6). In particular, the conference calls for papers within the following three overall themes: (1) death matters and materialities, (2) queering mourning, and (3) attuning to transitionings run through both days and all keynote lectures.
Stine Willum Adrian (Aalborg University, DK) – “Stitching Stories of Broken Hearts: Rethinking technologies of Death and Dying at the Beginning of Life”
Kira O’Reilly (independent artist, Helsinki, FI),
“An un’seaming mourning
a year later”
C. Riley Snorton (University of Chicago, USA) – “Mud: Queer Death and Teeming Forms of Wildlife”
CALL FOR PAPERS:
The First International Queer Death Studies Conference: “Death Matters, Queer(ing) Mourning, Attuning to Transitionings” aims to create an arena for critical discussion of death, dying and mourning that goes beyond the dual approach to death – human death in particular – that is common within Western cultural frameworks of Christian tradition or secular biomedical perspectives. As such, the conference invites scholars who work with death, dying, mourning and afterlife in relation to: diverse cultural, socio-political, historical, and economic conditions; entangled relations between human and the environment in the context of the Anthropocene; differential experiences of marginalised communities and individuals excluded from the hegemonic discourses on death, loss, grief and mourning, associated for example with the heteronormative model of family bonds; and, contemporary forms of necropolitics: mechanisms of power that force certain bodies into liminal spaces between life and death (for instance, refugees whose lives in detention camps turn into the state of “social death” (Mirzoeff 2019)). Interventions that focus on practices that resist hegemonic norms, as well as queer and decolonialise mourning and remembering are also welcome.
In order to search for broad inspirations for alternative articulations and stories which queer, that is, unpack and question the normativities (Chen 2012; Sandilands & Erickson 2012) that often frame contemporary discourses on death, dying, mourning and afterlife, the conference is based on a transdisciplinary engagement involving not only academics, but also activists, artists and other practitioners. In the context of the conference, to queer issues of death, dying, mourning and afterlife means to unhinge certainties, “undo normative entanglements and fashion alternative imaginaries” beyond the exclusive concern with gender and sexuality, often associated with the term “queer” (Giffney & Hird 2008, 6). In particular, the conference will call for papers within the following three overall themes: (1) death matters and materialities, (2) queering mourning, and (3) attuning to transitionings run through both days and all the keynote lectures.
The conference invites individual papers (length: 20 min) that engage with – but are not necessarily limited to – the following themes:
– Queer methodologies of researching death, dying, mourning and afterlife
– Queering and decolonialising practices of mourning, bereavement and remembrance
– Materiality of death and corpses
– Queering philosophies of death
– Death/life ecologies
– Necropolitics and borders
– Queer and trans necropolitics
– Un/grievable lives and deaths
– Death and biotechnology/biomedicine
– Queering cancer and other life-threatening diseases
-Technologies of life/death
– Queer widowhood
– Decolonialising death
– Illness narratives and death
– Ethico-politics and practices of killability
– Nonhuman death and dying
– Extinction and annihilation
– Death and acts of resistance
– ‘Slow death’
– Queering temporalities of death
– Queer spiritualities
– Death, ghosts and hauntology
Please, send a 300-word long abstract, accompanied by a 100-long bio to: qdsconference[at]gmail.com .
Welcome to the workshop “Becoming with Alien Encounters and Speculative Storytelling in a More-than-human World” that takes place on 4th June at 13:15 – 16:00, in the big seminar room at Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH (Teknikringen 74 D, Stockholm).
No registration is required.
Workshop: Becoming with Alien Encounters and Speculative Storytelling
Speculative storytelling refers to a wide range of narrative fiction, poetic and artistic articulations that employ ’fantastic’, supernatural, spiritual or other non-mimetic elements. In the times of the climate change and environmental crisis, accompanied by futuristic ’technology-will-save-us’ scenarios, on the one hand, and visions of ‘doom and gloom’, on the other, speculative storytelling has gained momentum as a way to reimagine futures beyond the human-centred narratives of the Anthropocene. This, importantly, includes a reimagining and experimentally re-establishing of new posthuman relationalities, corpo-affectively grounded in a situated caring ethics, as well as a decentring and deconstruction of the sovereign human subject and its claim to an exceptional position of enunciation. In this poetic/artistic-philosophical workshop, we will reflect on theoretical and practical tools to be interpellated to approach the radically different, without gesturing towards anthropomorphisation or domestication. Alongside of the theorising, we will also, through poetic-artistic articulations, explore the processes of decentring the human subject position and preparing for ’alien encounters’ – what in the ethics of Gilles Deleuze is framed as ’making yourself worthy of the event’. We will draw examples from alien encounters with lichen, algae, pollen, and underwater creatures, among others. As part of the workshop, we will invite the audience to try out their own approaches to such encounters through short writing prompts.
Katja Aglert, independent artist and researcher, SE
Line Henriksen, University of Copenhagen and IT University of Copenhagen, DK
Nina Lykke, University of Linköping, SE
Camila Marambio, Melbourne University, AUS
Tara Mehrabi, Karlstad University, SE
Marietta Radomska, Linköping University, SE and University of Helsinki, FI
Katja Aglert is a Stockholm based independent artist and researcher whose practice – situated in feminist, more-than-human imaginaries – is transdisciplinary in nature, and includes both individual and collaborative projects. Currently she examines artistically through hybrid forms of storytelling how we through the experiences of multi-beings-encounters can investigate what it can mean to materialise perspectives beyond the human-centred narratives. She exhibited widely, including venues such as Marabouparken and Biologiska Museet, Stockholm (SE); Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow (RU); Polarmuseet, Tromsø (NO); Fotografisk center, Copenhagen (DK); FLORA ars+natura, Bogota (COL); Museum for Contemporary Art, Santiago (CHL). She is an executive board member of The Seed Box, an international environmental humanities collaboratory headquartered at Linköping University. She teaches regularly at Umeå Art Academy, and Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts, and Design. katjaaglert.com
Line Henriksen, PhD is a lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of Copenhagen and IT University Copenhagen, DK. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies from the Unit of Gender Studies at Linköping University, Sweden. Henriksen has published on the subjects of monster theory, hauntology and digital media in journals such as Women & Performance and Somatechnics, and her fiction has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways and Tales to Terrify, among others. She is a founding member of the Monster Network.
Nina Lykke, PhD, Professor Emerita, Gender Studies, Linköping University, Sweden. Co-founder of Queer Death Studies Network, and The International Network for ECOcritical and DECOlonial Research. Current research: queering of cancer, death, and mourning in queerfeminist materialist, decolonial and eco-critical perspectives; autophenomenographic and poetic writing. Recent publications: Queer Widowhood. Lambda Nordica. 2015:4; Academic Feminisms: Between Disidentification, Messy Everyday Utopianism, and Cruel Optimism. Feminist Encounters. 2017:1(1); When death cuts apart, in: Juvonen & Kohlemainen: Affective Inequalities in Intimate Relationships. Routledge, New York 2018; Rethinking socialist and Marxist legacies in feminist imaginaries of protest from postsocialist perspectives. Social Identities. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture. 2018:24 (2). Website: https://ninalykke.net
Camila Marambio is curator of Ensayos, and her work with the program has been represented in exhibitions and performances at the Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; the Institute for Art and Olfaction, Los Angeles; BHQFU, New York; Puerto de Ideas, Valparaíso; Festival Cielos del Infinito, Puerto Williams, CL; Kurant, Tromsø, NO; and Psi #22, Melbourne, AU. Currently a PhD Candidate in Curatorial Practice at MADA in Melbourne, Australia, Marambio received an M.A. in Modern Art: Critical Studies at Columbia University and a Master of Experiments in Art and Politics at Science Po in Paris; attended the Curatorial Programme at de Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam; and was Head Curator at Matucana 100 (Santiago, CL) and Assistant Curator at Exit Art (New York, NY).
Tara Mehrabi, PhD, is a Lecturer at the Centre for Gender Studies, Karlstad University (Sweden). She is a feminist technoscience studies scholar who is interested in the intersection of gender studies, medical humanities and environmental humanities. She is a founding member of Queer Death Studies Network and a member of The Posthumanities Hub. Meharbi is the author of the monograph Making Death Matter: A Feminist Technoscience Study of Alzheimer’s Sciences in the Laboratory (2016). She has published in anthologies such as Animal Places. Lively Cartographies of Human Animal Relations, (eds.) by J. Bull, T. Holmberg & C. Åsberg, Routledge (2018), Gendering Drugs: feminist studies of pharmaceuticals, (ed.) by E. Johnson, Palgrave (2017) and journal Gender, Women & Research (2018). Website: https://taramehrabi.wordpress.com/.
Building: Kopparhammaren, Norra Grytgatan, Entrance 10A, Floor 2, room KO22.
Registration: Please register with name, address/affiliation and e-mail, at the latest May 20, to email@example.com (max 20 participants)
Through creative writing, listening exercises, and sharing of reflections, the workshop will question the Hain and other similar ceremonies, as they are understood through the anthropological material that represents them.
The workshop will take as a point of departure an introduction to the Hain, as it appears in the anthropological/ethnological literature, then move through stories told by descendants of those performing the last Hain in the early 20th century, and to the implied layers of “lostness” and the task of translation and decolonializing.
WHAT IS THE HAIN?
As described by Austrian ethnologist and Christian priest Martin Gusinde (1886-1969), the Kloketen-Hain is an initiation ceremony of the Selk’nam people of Tierra del Fuego. It is recorded as having been performed for the last time in 1923. Gusinde’s research was later revised by the anthropologist Anne Chapman (1922-2010) and her Selk’nam research participant Lola Kiepja (died 1966). Since the ceremony is no longer performed, it seems to have been “lost” as a lived spiritual experience. Anthropologists and ethnologists, most coming from colonial Western contexts, who have described ceremonies such as the Hain, often limit their description to the specific event (located in space and time) and from their situatedness in the outlooks of White Western Modernity.
SOME KEY QUESTIONS:
* If and, if yes, how, is it possible to “read/write/perform in-between the lines” of the descriptions, framed from the point of view of a specifically located white Western, colonial gaze?
* What kind of “readings/writings/performings-in-between-the-lines” can and can’t “we” (differently located workshop participants) perform
* Which tools and performative re/worlding practices can and can’t “we” collectively develop?
* What can “we” learn as well as unlearn from such processes of collective “reading/writing/performing in-between-the-lines”?
* Which kinds of ethical reflections does the process of generating new approaches to the Hain require and produce?
The workshop builds on Camila Marambio’s longtime fieldwork in Tierra del Fuego, as part of the nomadic research programme Ensayos and her PhD research in Curatorial Practice at Monash University, Melbourne, and on both authors’ joint work to organize ‘Queering the Hain-workshops’ (Melbourne, Australia, 2018, and Santiago, Chile, 2019), recently in collaboration with Hema’ny Molina Vargas, President of the Selk’nam organization Covadonga Ona (Corporación Selk’nam Chile, Comunidad indigena Covadonga Ona).
Camila Marambio, is curator of Ensayos (https://ensayostierradelfuego.net/), and her work with the program has been represented in exhibitions and performances at the Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; the Institute for Art and Olfaction, Los Angeles; BHQFU, New York; Puerto de Ideas, Valparaíso; Festival Cielos del Infinito, Puerto Williams, CL; Kurant, Tromsø, NO; and Psi #22, Melbourne, AU. Currently a PhD Candidate in Curatorial Practice at MADA in Melbourne, Australia, Marambio received an M.A. in Modern Art: Critical Studies at Columbia University and a Master of Experiments in Art and Politics at Science Po in Paris; attended the Curatorial Programme at de Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam; and was Head Curator at Matucana 100 (Santiago, CL) and Assistant Curator at Exit Art (New York, NY).
Nina Lykke, Professor Emerita, Gender Studies, Linköping University, Sweden. Co-founder of Queer Death Studies Network, and Network for Ecocritical-Decolonial Research. Current research: queering of cancer, death, and mourning in queerfeminist materialist, decolonial and eco-critical perspectives; autophenomenographic and poetic writing. Recent publications: When death cuts apart, in: Juvonen & Kohlemainen: Affective Inequalities in Intimate Relationships. Routledge, New York 2018; Rethinking socialist and Marxist legacies in feminist imaginaries of protest from postsocialist perspectives. Social Identities. Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture. 2018:24 (2). Making Live and Letting Die: Cancerous Bodies between Anthropocene Necropolitics and Chthulucene Kinship. Environmental Humanities. 2019: 11 (1): 108-136. Personal website: https://ninalykke.net
ORGANIZERS: The workshop is co-organized by Tema Genus and REMESO, Linköping University. Contact: Professor Nina Lykke (firstname.lastname@example.org), Tema Genus, and PhD student Asher Goldstein (email@example.com), REMESO.
The Kelp Congress at LIAF (Lofoten International Art Festival) 2019 between the 17th and 22nd of September in Svolvær is an event consisting of three parallel workshops that will lead into a weekend public programme. These workshops will harness the recent discourse surrounding seaweed within contexts such as energy, nutrition, agriculture, and medicine, and will shift the focus onto lesser explored artistic and cultural dimensions related to kelp and other macroalgae.
Who can apply?
Artists, scientists, activists, writers, film-makers, researchers, and those working within arts and culture organisations. The Kelp Congress is grounded within a Nordic context, but the call is open to all nationalities.
Food, accommodation, and local transportation will be provided. Travel to and from Lofoten is not included.
How to Apply:
If you are interested in participating, please submit an Application Form.
We aim to contact all applicants by mid-May.
Thursday 2 May, 2019
The Kelp Congress is organised as part of LIAF 2019, in collaboration with Mustarinda, The Department of Seaweed, Posthumanities Hub, ArtLab Gnesta, Skaftfell – Center for Visual Art, and co-produced with Annette Wolfsberger. LIAF 2019 is curated by Hilde Methi, Neal Cahoon, Karolin Tampere, and Torill Østby Haaland.
Welcome to The Posthumanities Hub seminar with Dr. Marietta Radomska on Deterritorialising Death: Queer(ing) Methodology and Contemporary Art, which takes place on 22 January (Tuesday) at 10:15 – 12:00 in the seminar room at Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment KTH, Teknikringen 74 D, Stockholm.
Deterritorialising Death: Queer(ing) Methodology and Contemporary Art
This paper stems from a project that asks what happens when contemporary art – in a dialogue with feminist materialist philosophies – is mobilised in order to challenge conventional (i.e. anchored in the Western tradition of the autonomous (exclusively) human subject) understandings of death, and assess multiple vulnerabilities and power differentials that form part of the materialisations of ecologies of death in the context of the Anthropocene.
In other words, the project examines how contemporary art read through the lens of feminist materialist philosophies (e.g. Colebrook, MacCormack, Grosz) may – and do – queer, that is, unsettle, subvert and exceed binaries, given norms, normativities, and conventions that frame and govern the bodies and processes constitutive of death, extinction and annihilation, especially in the given environmental context.
In order to do so, we need an adequate set of tools. In this paper, I argue for a tripartite methodology that queers the traditional human-exceptionalist concept of death: (1) feminist biophilosophy as an examination that does not search for an ‘essence’ of life, but instead focuses on the processes that take life beyond itself; (2) ‘the non/living’ (Radomska 2016) as a way to conceptualise death/life entanglement; and (3) queer vitalism as a ground for aesthetics (Colebrook 2014). By discussing each of these components and employing them in the analysis of select artworks, I hope to open up a space for discussion on this queer(ing) methodology’s potential for mobilising a novel feminist-materialist understanding of both ontology and ethics of death.
Marietta Radomska, PhD, is a Postdoc at the Department of Thematic Studies (Gender Studies), Linköping University, SE, and a Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Cultures (Art History), University of Helsinki, FI. She is the co-director of The Posthumanities Hub; founder of The Eco- and Bioart Research Network, co-founder of International Network for ECOcritical and DECOlonial Studies and a founding member of Queer Death Studies Network. Radomska is a feminist philosopher and transdisciplinary gender studies and posthumanities scholar. Her current research project focuses on ecologies of death in the context of contemporary art. She is the author of the monograph Uncontainable Life: A Biophilosophy of Bioart (2016), and has published in Australian Feminist Studies, Somatechnics, and Angelaki, among others.
In spring we commemorated together the 10th anniversary of Bioart Society. It is now again time to celebrate big time and with great pleasure, we invite you to the opening of our new SOLU Space. The new SOLU Space is a major component of an ongoing transformation from Bioart Society to SOLU – an artistic laboratory and platform for art, science and society. Please join us on Nov. 9th and 10th at Luotsikatu 13 in Katajanokka to celebrate and reminisce the past successful years and to toast to the coming ones!
Friday 9th of November 15:00h
We start with brief opening speeches by Mari Keski Korsu (Bioart Society), Antti Tenetz (TAIKE), Anna Talasniemi (Kone Foundation), Atte Korhola (HY) and a toast to the new SOLU Space with sparkling. After that we continue with an inaugural speech, a journey through (bio)art history with bioart pioneer Antero Kare, performative interventions by Till Bovermann, Kira O’Reilly and Ava Grayson, and the opening of a photographic retrospective of ten years work of the Bioart Society. We commence with food and a proper party. For the party in the evening we kindly ask you to bring some drinks.
10:00-12:00h What we do in the shadows
– a sneak preview into the upcoming book of the Bioart Society with writers and the editorial team moderated by Kira O’Reilly with
Marietta Radomska: Doing Away with Life: On Biophilosophy, the Non/Living, Toxic Embodiment, and Reimagining Ethics Erich Berger: (Deep) Time Machines – artistic vehicles and the scope of the real Antti Tenetz: Machine Wilderness – a field report
Helena Sederhom: Examining the Monstrous Kaspari Mäki Reinikka: Cave paintings for the AI – Art in the age of Singularity
12:00-13:00 Pizza, lemonade, coffee, mingling
13:00-14:00 What we do in the lights
– an art and science Petcha Kutcha session with Leena Valkeapää, Minna Langström, Paula Humberg, Lauri Linna, Björn Kröger, Jose Cano Arias, Maarit Laihonen, Jussi Eronen
14:15-15:00 Discussion panel moderated by Juha Huuskonen/HIAP with Taru Elfving/Seili residency, Lucy Davies/Aalto Univ., Paul O’Neill/Publics, Pauliina Leikas/Mustarinda, Piritta Puhto/Bioart Society
On 10-13 October 2018 Prof. Cecilia Åsberg and Dr. Marietta Radomska are representing The Posthumanities Hub at the State of the Art: A Multidisciplinary Collaboration Facing the Anthropocene seminar and network meeting, taking place in Silkeborg, DK, and organised by The Independent AIR.
Join the 8th Biennial Conference of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and Environment (EASLCE): “The Garden – Ecological Paradigms of Space, History, and Community” at the University of Würzburg (Germany) from September 26 -29, 2018.
Existential concerns around environmental health today involve a much wider set of issues (and a wider set of bodies) as we intra-act with antibiotics, nanoparticles, and untested chemical cocktails through the food we eat, the make-up we wear, the new sofas we sit on, or the environments we dwell in. We are more acutely aware today of how we are in nature, and nature – polluted as it may be – in us. With the recognition of the ecological crisis and its gravity, we have – according to some scientific experts – entered a new geological period: the Anthropocene, in which it is the human who constitutes the biggest threat to the survival of the earth and its human as well as more-than-human inhabitants.
Through the proliferation of plastics and chemical pollution more generally, petrochemicals constitute in effect forms of social, material, and biological writing of toxic embodiment. This makes toxic embodiment an urgent concern for environmental humanities and for environmental literacies at large.
Advancements in genetic engineering, the chemicalization of food production, and the rapid growth of the pharmaceutical industry have made human, animal, and plant embodiments simultaneously enhanced and debilitated. They become ‘toxic bodies’, ‘pharmaceutical subjects’, and they leave a toxic footprint in the world.
By approaching the theme of ‘toxic embodiment’ from a broad and transdisciplinary perspective (eco-cultural studies; body and gender studies; medicine and life sciences; posthumanities; science, technology, and society; and, especially, the environmental humanities), this webinar will explore the risks and the opportunities that these changes may bring.
More specifically, the session will engage with the topic of toxic embodiment as our always-already environed technobodies, and how they/we are shaped by health norms and toxic realities that put into question the notions of health and disease, vulnerability and well-being, as well as life/death, and the dis/ability of the ‘natural’ human body. Here, the ‘human’ emerges as a set of toxic embodiments – ones that are radically tethered to, or shaped by, their milieus, including their more-than-human companions (synthetic molecules, microbes, fungi, plants, and animals), and the ways they/we all come together.
How do questions of toxicity and its impact on both human and nonhuman bodies influence environmental discourses? How do they influence the articulation of environmental problems? What kind of imaginaries do they mobilise and what futures do they seek to envision?
What conceptualisations of the body emerge from the present narratives on toxicity? What are the understandings of the subject that are (re)produced through these narratives?
Environmental discourses that engage with the issues of toxicity often put emphasis on the ideas of the natural and the anthropogenic, the normal and the abnormal, as well as health and illness. How are these notions understood in the context of the webinar readings? Are they reworked or abandoned? What does the enquiry of toxic embodiment do to their conventional understandings?
What new approaches, methodologies, and methods does the work on toxic embodiment offer?
Giovanna DiChiro (2010) ‘Polluted Politics? Confronting Toxic Discourse, Sex Panic, and Eco-Normativity’ in Queer Ecologies, eds. C. Sandilands & B. Erickson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press: 199-230.
Haraway, Donna. 2016. ‘Awash in Urine: DES and Premarin in Multispecies Response-ability’ in Staying with the Trouble. Durham: Duke University Press: 104-116.