Monday, 27 February 2017

CFP - Power and the Chthulucene Humanimal discussions at the intersections of gender, sexuality, ability, and race


Power and the Chthulucene 
Humanimal discussions at the intersections of gender, sexuality, ability, and race

Work within the multidisciplinary field of human-animal studies has over recent decades demonstrated how ‘the human’ is materially and discursively dependent on ‘non-humans’. This critical exploration of the ‘more-than-human’ has not been carried out in a vacuum but rather has been in conversation with wider debates regarding the intra-relational power made up by categories such as gender, sexuality, ability and race. Nevertheless, the relationship between human-animal studies’ centering of ’the question of the animal’ on one hand, and research conducted in the fields of gender and race studies on the other, has not always been an easy and uncontroversial one, but has sometimes been characterized by contradictory discourses. Today however, conversations and alliances across these theoretical and empirical registers seem ever more relevant as we seek to continue to (re)think gender, sexuality and race in multispecies contexts and to examine the critical potential to ‘queer the human’ and thereby explore possible pasts, presents and futures.
In her critique of the term Anthropocene Donna Haraway (2016) reminds us that current forms of humanism that have been created through the Capitalocene are built through and on economies of extraction, circulation, simplification and exploitation that displace and threaten people, animals and ecologies and consolidate capital and power. The Anthropocene she argues is an unsatisfactory descriptor of our current situation in that it mis-names the culprit (global capital), hides its condition (multispecies co-dependence) and the distribution of risk, and closes down the possibilities for thinking about futures. Haraway, therefore offers the alternative framework Chthulucene as made up of ‘ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming with in times that remain at stake, in precarious times in which the world is not yet finished’ (2016:11).
In the spirit of this theoretical and political move, this symposium presents theoretical and/or empirically grounded papers that examine how human-animal studies might collaborate with, engage, and inform critical research on issues of race, gender, ability and sexuality. Together we examine shared issues, question what separates us, and explore how we can combine our knowledges to contribute to the struggle against violence, discrimination and injustice.

The symposium takes place on April 6-7, 2017, at Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala. The cost for participation is 200 SEK which includes lunch on the 7th and coffee on both days. If one wants to participate in the dinner on the evening of the 6th, it is 450 SEK extra (650 SEK total). Register no later than March 15th, 2017. However, please note that the number of places are limited, therefore it is better to register sooner.



10.30-11.30 Tour of Museum Gustavianum (places are limited, pre-registration is required)
13.15-13.30 Words of welcome
13.30-15 Session 1
Eliza Steinbock, Department of Film and Literary Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands: Catties and T-selfies. A question of sovereignty
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz, US: The watershed body. Transgressing frontiers in riverine sciences, planning multispecies worlds
15-15.30 Coffee
15.30-17.00 Session 2
Wendy Woodward, English Department, University of the Western Cape, South Africa: ‘Miracles of attunement’? Reading dog and human beings-with in southern African narratives
Ann-Sofie Lönngren, Center for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Sweden: Falling in love with a bear girl. Scandinavian literary representations of cross-species sexuality, love, and family formations around 2000
19.00- Conference dinner in Linnaeus’ Garden


9.15-10.45 Session 3
Erica Cudworth, Social Sciences, University of East London, England: tbc
Andrea Petitt, Center for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Sweden: Cowgirls of the Kalahari. Cattle intersecting with relations of power in Botswana
10.45-11 Coffee
11-12.30 Session 4
Jacob Bull, Center for Gender Research, Uppsala university, Sweden: A little more than kin a little less than kind: critical potentials of symbiosis for multi-species worlds
Hyaesin Yoon, Gender Studies Department, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary: Beyond the erotics of singularity. The biopolitics of intimacy in commercial pet cloning
12.30-13.30 Lunch
13.30-15.00 Session 5
Pär Segerdahl, Center for Gender Research, Uppsala university, Sweden: Intellectual asceticism and hatred of the human, the animal, and the material
15.00-15.15 Closing words


Jacob Bull: A little more than kin a little less than kind: critical potentials of symbiosis for multi-species worlds
Symbiosis is increasingly being used within academic articulations of our ‘multi-species’ worlds (see for example Barker 2010; Freccero, 2011; Haraway, 2008; 2016; Hird, 2009, Lorimer, 2016). Often defined as the living together of two or more dissimilar organisms, this move towards symbiotic understandings of life is important as it emphasises the co-dependencies and interrelations between humans and other species. As such it is a tool of description, it makes visible the connections and co-reliance between seemingly autonomous beings. But it is also an analytical tool with critical potentials. It unsettles conceptualisations of ’the Human’, and makes obvious that particular forms of humanism are indebted to the various technologies of agriculture, science, medicine, ‘wilderness’, industry, (and so on) that tie people and animals together in particular ways. Making codependence visible is an important step as it emphasises shared (evolution) histories, spaces of cohabitation and corporeal exchange and bears witness to the more-than-human bodies that labour in the Anthropocene. Through symbiosis Life becomes about relationships as ‘beings do not pre-exist their relating’ (Haraway 2003:6) rather than an individualised struggle as featured in neo-Darwinian narratives survival of the fittest. As symbiotic theory continues to gain ground in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities we have opportunity to rethink issues of kinship as genome mapping shows commonalities and connections between species, phyla and kingdoms. Similarly horizontal gene transfer in terms of asexual reproduction, epigenetics and work on microbiomes has illustrated how human, lives, sex and inheritance are always more-than-human. There is therefore much critical potential in symbiotic theory. However, perhaps a victim of it own success, symbiosis as fundamental and ubiquitous as it is, risks becoming a descriptor of everything and thereby losing critical potential. This paper therefore proposes a more nuanced definition and a more varied history of symbiosis theory as one way of maintaining critical potential.
Andrea Petitt: Cowgirls of the Kalahari. Cattle intersecting with relations of power in Botswana
In Botswana cattle production is constructed as a male sphere whereas women as a group are placed symbolically and, in large, materially, outside the realm of cattle. However, looking closer at this narrative, there are exceptions to the general ‘rule’ that women do not have cattle in Botswana. Expectations on how women relate to cattle are built around intersecting notions of gender, class, ethnicity and race.  Looking at actual practices, however, women do engage in an array of cattle practices that both align to but also challenge these expectations. Drawing on notions of the past, they benefit from cattle relations because or in spite of these expectations. Cattle, as a species category, are both symbolically and materially active in creating relations of power between humans, and being a woman in rural Botswana is done through relating to cattle. Exploring what ‘becoming with’ cattle can mean at various intersections of gender, class, ethnicity and race in Ghanzi, Botswana, characterized by the harsh Kalahari climate, this paper draws on interviews and participant observation among forty cattle owning women to show how species specific human-animal relations are an integral part of what it means to be a woman.
Pär Segerdahl: Intellectual asceticism and hatred of the human, the animal, and the material
In his remarks on the meaning of ascetic ideals in philosophy, Nietzsche connects these ideals with “hatred of the human, and even more of the animal, and more still of the material.” If Nietzsche is right in viewing metaphysics as generalized “aversion to life,” including aversion to the human, then the idea that philosophy idealizes the human, and tells us a story of human exceptionalism, may need to be reconsidered. What does metaphysics idealize, if it isn’t the human? What is the meaning of the human/animal opposition, if it expresses hatred even of the human? In this paper I summarize Nietzsche’s remarks on ascetic ideals in philosophy and discuss what they imply for human exceptionalism. Finally, I relate Nietzsche’s remarks to Donna Haraway’s questioning of the Anthropocene as a story to think with; a questioning that is made partly on the basis of the idea that it continues a story of human exceptionalism. In the paper I also discuss the notion of “power over life” (as opposed to “power in life”) and its connection to ascetic practices.
Eliza Steinbock: Catties and T-Selfies: A Question of Sovereignty 
This talk responds to the phenomenon of Internet cats becoming pervasive in Web 2.0, while at the same time digitally shared self-portraits commonly called “selfies” also circulate with extremely high frequency. I track the efficacy of sharing selfies for trans/Two Spirit individuals such as artist Kiley May and in trans-centric hashtag campaigns. I will show that trans-animality in digital life can offer sovereign forms of subjectivity and engage response patterns that locate a trans point of regard. Further, I will try to explain why so many different kinds of cuteness are shared in the intimate superpublics of online trans* communities. Building on classic texts in philosophical cat studies, such as from Jacques Derrida, the concept of the “inappropriate/d other,” and contemporary cuteness theories, I will propose that cute aesthetics provide a sentimental shield, can counter sexual indifference, and often enact a mode of resilience crucial for surviving in (media) cultures that erase the existence of trans people of color.
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine: The watershed body: Transgressing frontiers in riverine sciences, planning multispecies worlds
In the Northwestern U.S., some ecosystem managers and scientists are turning to beavers (Castor canadensis) as partners in restoring hydro-ecological function to damaged salmon streams and avert extinction of coho salmon (Oncorynchus kitsutch). Drawing on interviews conducted on beaver relocation trips and at conferences, I examine particulars of anthropocene beaver worlds that are emerging in landscapes whose defining hydrologic features are large dams that block water flow and fish migration nearly every river.  I extend Eva Hayward’s concept of transgender embodiment to explore transgressive potentials of these scientists’ collaborations with beavers. Thinking of a relational water(shed) body as always-becoming trans body focuses attention on how the vicissitudes of settler legacy and present human need shape any given water body and transform that water body, and together with the various species and elementals in the watershed shape its possible presents and futures. In trying to reverse the damage of 20th century river engineering projects, these actors  are entering into improvisatory riparian collaborations with an animal they often call an ecosystem engineer, by trapping ‘nuisance’ beavers, matchmaking in a repurposed fish hatchery, and then releasing beavers into mountain headwaters, where their dams improve streamflow and salmon habitat.

Wendy Woodward: ‘Miracles of attunement’? Reading dog and human beings-with in southern African narratives
If the girl-child produces the small dog’s body as she lies next to him on the hall carpet, attempting to see with his small-dog eyes and his dog senses, to what extent is the child herself produced by the experience? An apparently timeless moment of the child and dog’s being-with is, however, imbricated in a particular southern African situatedness, which will be unpacked. This paper reads various narratives--by Luis Bernardo Honwana, Es’kia Mphalele, Njabulo Ndebele, JM Coetzee, Thando Mgqolozana and Marlene van Niekerk--which figure taxonomies of race and species through humans and dogs. Vinciane Despret’s notion of human-nonhuman animal attunement will be deployed while remaining mindful of Claire Jean Kim’s call to “remain attuned to the ... dynamics of difference production.” The paper concludes with Tinyiko Maluleke’s short essay “I am an African and I grieve for my dog Bruno” and asks if mourning could foster a recognition of feelings without recourse to the current South African imperative of sedimented racialised and gendered differences.
Hyaesin Yoon: Beyond the Erotics of Singularity: the biopolitics of intimacy in commercial pet cloning
This presentation examines the biopolitical arrangement of intimacy among human, animal, and technology in the transnational pet-cloning industry. In doing so, I depart from prevalent critiques on cloning that reverberate in the popular imaginary of clones as what will supersede humans and other natural creatures in the dystopian future. That approach is problematic not only because of its recourse to the Western metaphysical binaries between original/copy and nature/technology, but also because of its reliance on performative production of the in/human – intersecting with the relations of gender/sexuality, race, species, and disability. I analyze two cases of pet cloning. First, the media representation of an American woman who cloned her deceased service dog and was later revealed to be the protagonist of a 1970s sex scandal. Second, the narrative of a man who lives with two clones of his deceased dog. I argue that the human-canine relations in these cases challenge the prevalent critique on cloning (and its emphasis on the singularity of the original), subtended by ablist-heteronormative sexuality and the specieated order of relationality. In this light, these cases call for queer and beyond-the-human biopolitics of intimacy in an era of genetic reproduction and postindustrial capitalism.
Erica Cudworth…