Despite Darwin’s claim that the human is an animal, humanity is often described in contradistinction to animality. Various binaries have defined the relationship between humans and animals, with the human capacity for consciousness, culture, rationality, and language understood as fundamental and determining differences. Today, rather than being fixed, the terms “animal” and “human” are increasingly understood as in flux, bound together theoretically, historically, and socially to enact a complex reciprocity that both defines and challenges the traditional categories of disciplines. If at the heart of the humanities is the question “what does it mean to be human?” this symposium seeks to explore the role of animals in the history and formation of this question from different disciplinary viewpoints.
We invite papers from all disciplines; possible topics include: What roles have animals played historically in the formation of the sciences, arts, psychology, and other fields? What historical moments or movements have proved critical in altering the relations between humans and animals? What myths and associations have been attached to animals in particular cultures? What role does the question of language and consciousness play in ethical debates? How do different theoretical and narratological models of the animal shape our applied and real world encounters with live and dead animals? If animals are connected to the realm of nature rather than culture or artifice, to what end have people used animals or depictions of animals, and are those uses currently in transition as the relationship between the animal and the human changes?
This symposium will include an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion and a keynote lecture by Akira Mizuta Lippit.
Submission Deadline: March 1, 2009
Email 500-words abstract and CV/bio to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruth Erickson and Nathaniel Prottas
History of Art Department
University of Pennsylvania
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