Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

University of Chicago

Month: January 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016: Skinning for Proof and Power in the Periplus of Hanno and its Imperial Tradition

Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Classics, The University of Illinois

“Skinning for Proof and Power in the Periplus of Hanno and its Imperial Tradition”

The Periplus of Hanno, an ancient Greek prose description of a (probably imagined) colonization voyage King Hanno the Carthaginian made around western Africa, ends with a scene of human flaying. Hanno and his crew encounter the Gorillai, a community of “wild human beings.” Hanno captures some of the “hairy” women, kills them, skins them, and takes their skins back to Carthage. In this article, I trace a cultural history of flaying in ancient Greece and Rome to interpret this scene and its reception by later Roman authors. While modern scholars have wanted to see the hairy Gorillai as a species of nonhuman primate, especially gorillas (whose name the Gorillai inspired in the 19 century), I argue that the we must take seriously the Gorillai as human beings and understand their flaying within a Greco-Roman worldview. I show that Greek and Roman writers co-construct ethnicity and hum/animality through the treatment of mortal remains. Greeks and Romans believed that human corpses deserve respect after death whereas animal corpses do not. Likewise, Greek and Roman writers often assume that ethnic Others do not respect human corpses as they should. Thus, when Hanno skins the Gorillai, he performs his alterity. Yet Roman writers who rework the flaying scene also celebrate the skins as proof of Hanno’s encounter with the amazing Gorillai. This tension between Hanno the cruel barbarian and Hanno the heroic producer of marvels made it possible for ancient readers to evaluate Hanno’s actions, and the Gorillai themselves, in different ways.

Request a copy of the paper by emailing hutch@uchicago.edu.

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, January 27th, 2016: Mark Twain’s Human-Animal Studies: “Imperial” Morals, Biological Training, and the Politics of Nature

Agnes Malinowska, The Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

Mark Twain’s Human-Animal Studies: “Imperial” Morals, Biological Training, and the Politics of Nature

Nothing but Rabbits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it stands, this vey unfinished first attempt at a dissertation chapter on Mark Twain does not yet have a unified argument, but is composed of three more-or-less related sections. In the first section, I consider how Twain’s deliberations about the human-as-animal inform his famed anti-imperialism. Here, I focus in particular on Twain’s articulation of the moral sense and the individual “I,” two key features by which humans have traditionally distinguished themselves from animals. In the second section, I turn to The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to delve deeper into the relationship between the human conceived as individual and imperial ideology. I then argue that biological determinism emerges as a surprising source of resistance to empire in a key moment of this text. In the third section—thus far quite distinct from the other two—I examine the multiple and often conflicting perspectives that Twain’s body of writings take on the human and animal. I suggest that we can read these as explorations in the simple, but important point that the model of the natural world that we take on produces diverging ethical and political commitments or outcomes (and vice-versa). In concluding, I offer an extended reading of Connecticut Yankee alongside Twain’s late philosophical dialogue, What is Man? to flesh out this point about the relationship between metaphysical models and ethical or political programs.

Request a copy of the paper by emailing kpflaum@uchicago.edu.

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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