Monday, July 28, 2014

Approaching Posthumanism and the Posthuman

by J J Cohen

I've promised to share the CFP for this conference, and so, I am sharing. It would be great to have a substantial medieval and early modern presence at the event, considering the presentism that often inheres in the topic.

Approaching Posthumanism and the Posthuman
Conference and Doctoral Workshop
June 4-6, 2015 St. Maurice, Switzerland

Keynote Speakers:
Cary Wolfe, Rice University
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, George Washington University
Margrit Shildrick, Linkรถping University
Stefan Herbrechter, Coventry University

Deborah Madsen, Manuela Rossini, Kimberly Frohreich, and Bryn Skibo-Birney


A highly topical and sometimes contentious notion, posthumanism continues to spark debates as to how it is and should be defined, particularly in relation to humanism. One might ask whether the posthuman is merely an imaginative, literary, and/or theoretical figure or if we are already posthuman. Is posthumanism simply after the human or does it speak to a being beyond, above, within, encompassing, and surpassing what we currently know as the human? Moreover, even if we recognize that posthumanism is inextricably bound to and wound up in humanist discourse, does the posthuman figure effectively open up alternative perspectives and positions from which to question, to destabilize, and to decenter the human?

These questions permeate contemporary literature, film and television, comic books, video games, social media, philosophical and theoretical essays in which posthuman figures abound. From avatars and cyborgs to clones and zombies, the posthuman appears continually to challenge the line dividing the human from the nonhuman. Whether blurring the distinction between human and machine, human and animal, organic and inorganic, or the living from the dead, whether destabilizing gender, sexuality, race, class, age, the mind/body dichotomy, or species categorization, posthumanism points to the ways in which (the exclusion of) the Other is necessary to the self-bounded identity of the human(ist) subject. More than a contemporary issue, posthumanism appears whenever humanness or anthropocentrism is in crisis, and critics have accordingly noted the presence of posthumanist thought, themes, and figures not only in postmodern literature but in much earlier literary periods as well.

The aim of this conference is both to explore the multiple ways in which posthumanism in its various configurations questions, complicates, destabilizes, and haunts humanism and the human, as well as to discuss theoretical approaches to posthumanism and/or the posthuman. In addition to inhabiting a wide range of literary periods, genres, and media, posthumanism can also be said to blur the seemingly well-defined borders between humanities disciplines, lending itself to interdisciplinary approaches involving literary and cultural studies, media studies, animal studies, and fields like the digital, medical, and environmental humanities, as well as drawing from multiple theoretical frameworks such as feminism, gender studies, queer theory, race theory, disability studies, postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction.

Please send 300 word abstracts to Kimberly Frohreich ( and Bryn Skibo-Birney ( by September 15, 2014. Paper topics can address (but are not limited to) any of the above areas and themes across disciplines, periods, genres, and media. An additional list of potential paper topics is below.

Posthumanist discourse and/or figures in medieval, early modern, modern or contemporary literature
Posthuman figures in film and television
Posthuman figures in comic books and graphic novels
Posthuman figures in contemporary media forms, e.g. video games, social media, etc.
Posthumanism and critical animal studies
Digital humanities and posthumanism
Medical humanities and posthumanism
Environmental humanities and posthumanism
Postcolonial posthumanism
Posthumanism and the Gothic (then and now)
Posthumanism and fantasy, science fiction and/or speculative fiction
Virtual versus embodied reality
Monsters, freaks, and/or superheroes
Metamorphoses and interspecies being/becoming
Posthuman(ist) subjectivities
Embodying posthumanism or the posthuman body
The posthumous
Language and the posthuman
Posthumanism and gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and/or class

Posthuman politics and ethics


dan remein said...

Boyda, this is fascinating, and I'm glad you've posted it. I followed some of the twitter stream to see what it was like--folks who know me also know that I can be inconsistently slow adopting when it comes to social media--and was thinking a great deal about the relatively small number of voices, who was reading them silently, and what motivated the tweeters. I did this about half way through the conference, having previously put on a relatively grumpy "I like hearing about sessions I wasn't at the old fashioned way, by asking someone who went" face.

After I started watching how the conference was being tweeted, I still asked people how things went, and those conversations of the twitter stream. I'm not entirely sure what that means. But think that if such activity is _ever_ meant as some kind of a surrogate for attendance, your suggestions would shape that in a more positive way.

dan remein said...
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