Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

University of Chicago

Oct. 17: Jacob Henry Leveton (Art History, Northwestern) to Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

(Click flyer to enlarge)

Oct. 3: Luke Fidler (Art History, University of Chicago) to Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

(Click flyer to enlarge)

Sept. 26: Animal/Nonhuman Workshop Reads Mick Smith

The Animal/Nonhuman Workshop requests your presence at a roundtable discussion of “Primitivism: Anarchy, Politics, and the State of Nature,” Against Ecological Sovereignty by Mick Smith (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Queen’s University)

4:30-6:00 p.m., Tuesday, September 26 in Rosenwald 405 Wieboldt 230 **Please Note the Room Change**

Drinks and light food will be served. Please email Zoe B. Hughes at zbhughes@uchicago.edu with questions/concerns and for a copy of the reading.

Wieboldt Hall is located at 1050 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Zoe B. Hughes (email address above).

Interstices of Organic, Inorganic, and Cosmic Worlds: Fall 2017 Schedule

Sept. 26.     Orienting Discussion: “Primitivism: Anarchy, Politics, and the State of Nature,” Mick Smith (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Queen’s University)

Oct. 3.     “Nonhuman Footnotes to A General Theory of Visual Culture: The Aesthetic Work of Bowerbirds, Brittlestars, and Japanese Pufferfish,” Luke Fidler (Art History, University of Chicago)

Oct. 17.     “Albion Mill and the 18th-Century London Geography of Revolt: Coal, Steam, and Architecture for the Anthropocene,” Jacob Henry Leveton (Art History, Northwestern)

Oct. 31.     “Feeling Is Believing: Disrupting Wilderness through Photography and Film,” Jessica Landau (Art History, University of Illinois)

Nov. 14.     “Setting Loose the Libido of the Puppet: Sophie Taeuber’s Critique of Psychoanalysis,” Marissa Fenley (English, University of Chicago)

Nov. 28.     “Cosmic Realism,” Kate Marshall (Associate Professor of English, Notre Dame)

N.B.: All meetings will take place 4:30-6 p.m. in Wieboldt 230 unless otherwise indicated. Wieboldt Hall is located at 1050 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Zoe B. Hughes at zbhughes@uchicago.edu.

Call for Papers: Winter 2018

How, and to what effect, does the nonhuman frame the human?

The University of Chicago’s longstanding Animal Studies Workshop is currently soliciting papers on animals, plants, machines, and other groups on the fringes of humanity. If your work interrogates the conceptual boundaries between the human and any or all of the above, the Animal/Nonhuman Workshop invites you to participate in this year’s cycle of presentations and papers. In the past, our workshop has been attended by students and faculty members from across the humanities and humanistic social sciences, providing a much-needed discussion forum for animal-, plant-, machine-, and object-oriented classicists, literary and film scholars, philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and economists, among others. The problem of the nonhuman, which requires a broad and deep knowledge, all but demands the transgression of conventional areas of study. Working together, the members of our workshop explore cross-disciplinary subjects, including but not limited to:

– Representations of nonhumans in literature, film, and visual art

– Human supremacy (or lack thereof); alterity, real or imagined

– The status, and subsequently, treatment of the nonhuman in disparate regions, time periods, and religions

– The boundaries of the moral community; the ethics of vegetarianism, veganism

– Animality and “becomings-animal”; dehumanization and intersectionality

– Hierarchies of nonhumans; the figure or status of the hybrid or monster

– The ways humanity has been/is being transformed by rapid technological advancement; the pros and cons of human enhancement

– The Anthropocene; Environmentalism and Anti-environmentalism

– The value of diversity; the threat and reality of extinction and responses thereto

– Agriculture and animal husbandry; domestication in theory and practice

– Human and nonhuman spaces; the ethics of zoos and aquariums

– Humanism, Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, and New Materialism

We also welcome submissions on the future of Animal/Nonhuman Studies: given that ours is a nascent area of study and there is a group of researchers that attends our workshop every other week, we are in the exciting position not only to forge solutions to animal/nonhuman problems, but also to contribute to the metadiscourse about our subfield.

If you want to help us develop a unique, institutional voice on issues concerning animals and other nonhumans, or you have an idea – or a paper or chapter – about the role of the fox in medieval French literature or the drone in American consciousness, we ask that you submit a 250 to 500-word abstract to zbhughes@uchicago.edu by December 31, 2018.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016: James Hevia with “Surra and the Emergence of Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Colonial India”

James L. Hevia, Department of History, University of Chicago

“Surra and the Emergence of Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Colonial India”

Between 1880 and the first decade of the twentieth century, veterinary medicine in India underwent a profound change. Emphasis shifted from the treatment of diseases affecting domestic animals, such as rinderpest. The new focus was on diseases that threatened to undermine a centerpiece of the British imperial security regime, pack animal transport – built, as it was, around camel, mule, donkey, and pony laborers. At the forefront of such concerns was surra, a blood disease caused by a parasite in the trypanosome family. In addition to attacking cavalry horses, it was the single main cause of death among the animals in army transport.

This paper explores the process by which veterinary medicine became militarized, and transformed by germ theory and bacteriology. It will also demonstrate how events in India were explicitly linked to the emerging field of tropical veterinary medicine, bringing Indian army veterinary surgeons into dialogues with counterparts in colonial Southeast Asia and in French and German colonies in Africa.

Please email Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

Wednesday, May 18, 2016: Tyler Schroeder with

Tyler Schroeder, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago

“Science as Fantasy: Conflicted Appeals in Maya the Bee and her Adventures (1925)”

Wolfram Junghans’ feature film Die Biene Maja und ihre Abenteuer (1925), filmed over three years using live insects and animals for “actors,” is adapted from a popular children’s novel. The film pairs the painstaking technological work of miniature-scale cinematography with the biological effort required to make insects “perform” before the camera. The writings of its filmmakers suggest the sublimation of the scientific and technological look, which here tries to reinvent itself as a means by which to create whimsy and fantasy. While skeptical critics dismiss the film as fulfilling neither the mandates of science nor of entertainment, I consider the film’s conceptualization, as well as its execution, to reflect the possibilities for rupture embedded within the didactic discourse of silent scientific and hygienic films. Sabine Flach recently wrote that the Weimar social-hygiene film transformed its audience into a medium—imprinting itself upon it by modifying its health and practices in an enduring fashion. My project examines the phenomenon of audience-creation as Kultur filmmakers negotiate and anticipate audience reactions. I do so by examining both the written discourse surrounding hygienic and didactic films and the aesthetics and rhetoric of these films themselves. In particular, I wish to examine the film’s mobilization of anthropomorphism as a problematic bridge between the scientific and the popular, and the demands of resemblance, legibility, and synthesis that are placed upon both insect bodies and specular subjectivities.

By pairing a generic reading of this film in the context of Kulturfilm with an aesthetic and historical evaluation of its cinematographic pracices, I attempt to find a new reading of this historical grouping of films as a whole. By examining the tensions between science and narrative in a film where the narrative is contingent upon optical and biological manipulation, I begin to derive a lineage that unites the fancy of Die Biene Maja with the didacticism of the period’s social-hygiene films, and intimate the possibility of a more vibrant poetics of science, hygiene, and medicine.

Please email Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016: Matthew Vanderpoel with “Domesticated Necromancy: ‘Renart Magicien’ and the Non-Humanity of Language”

Matthew Vanderpoel, History of Christianity in the Divinity School, University of Chicago 

“Domesticated Necromancy: ‘Renart Magicien’ and the Non-Humanity of Language”

Co-sponsored with the Medieval Studies workshop

In “Renart the Sorcerer,” an early-thirteenth-century branch of the sprawling Reynard cycle, the titular fox amplifies his usual mischief-making by traveling to Toledo to study necromancy. This paper presents a reading of this understudied text by focusing on Reynard’s apprenticeship in black magic—a process that includes both his formal study of magical formulae and his being domesticated as a house animal. By pairing these activities, the author charges a set of comparisons between the occult rules of enchantment and the strictures of human society. The paper concludes by analyzing this work as a part of larger debates over language and poetry in the high Middle Ages.

Please email Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

Wednesday, April 20: James Leo Cahill with “Carnivorous Cinema”

James Leo Cahill, Cinema Studies Institute and Department of French, University of Toronto

“Carnivorous Cinema”

In Jean Vigo’s 1930 address “Toward a Social Cinema,” he challenges engaged filmmakers to pursue subjects “that eat meat” [qui mange de la viande], in other words, film subject that bite into the flesh and inaugurate a carnivorous cinema. What to make of this strange project? What does it mean to premise an engaged cinema upon a violent imperative to devour flesh? What configurations of body, flesh, life, death, and social relations can such an orientation realize?

 

A belated response to Vigo’s challenge appears in a diptych of short films made in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in France: Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon’s L’Assassins d’eau douce / Freshwater Assassins (1947), a documentary about the predatory behaviors of local freshwater insects set to a frenetic hot jazz soundtrack, and Georges Franju’s Le Sang des bêtes / Blood of the Beasts (1948), an unflinching view of Paris’ abattoirs featuring commentary by Painlevé. Read together, these films develop a cinematic reflection on the food chain, nutritive destruction, and carnivorous behaviors that vacillates between anthropocentric allegories of human culture and uncanny direct addresses that refuse to grant humans the comfort of a stable place outside of the food chain. Working with archival materials (correspondences, alternate scripts, technical notes), contemporaneous writings on carnivorous culture by Antonin Artaud and heterodox Surrealists associated with Documents, and recent work by Eric Santner and Anat Pick on Walter Benjamin’s notion of natural history, I draw out how these films develop ambivalent audiovisual discourses on modes of gustatory violence that co-implicate spectators in their reflections of precarity, vulnerability, and creatureliness of flesh.

Please email Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Bill Hutchison (hutch@uchicago.edu). 

Wednesday, April 6: “To be (a baboon), or not to be (a bat); On Time and Subjectivity in Baboon Mothers and Infants”

Sam Schulte, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, University of Chicago

“To be (a baboon), or not to be (a bat); On Time and Subjectivity in Baboon Mothers and Infants”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
What kinds of valid inferences can be made about animal life? Baboon Mothers and Infants, as a foundational work for behavioral ecology and deploying methodology from Jeanne Altmann’s 1974 paper on observational study, establishes the validity of focal sampling as a data collection method for the naturalistic study of animal behavior. Using the issue of time in Thomas Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?” as a means to explore the ontological and epistemological stakes of her work, I argue that Altmann productively manipulates analytic time in order to form a well-supported notion of what it is like ‘to be’ a mother-infant dyad, and in so doing, makes objective claims about the subjective experience of the dyad.

Please email Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

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