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Interdisciplinary conference on non-anthropocentric perspectives in Slavic studies

 
 

Conference venue: The Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York
Period: February 23-25, 2017
Deadline for submitting abstracts: 5 November 2016


Description of the Conference

The last two decades have witnessed a revision in the concept of alterity, decentering the human in how we reckon with the other. Animal studies, artificial intelligence, ecocriticism, etc. not only ask us to consider the possibility of non-human subjects, but also challenge our very humanness and, along with it, the very premises of the humanities and human sciences. What does a non-anthropocentric understanding of the other offer to the field of Slavic studies? And conversely, what can the cultures, histories, and belief systems of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia reveal about practices and possibilities of radical alterity?

Eligible topics for the conference

Three provocations:

  • In defining the post-human as a radically disembodied state, thinkers like Katherine Hayles paradoxically continue to work within a particular humanist tradition closely linked to the Enlightenment and Western Christianity that excises the body from philosophical concerns. How do features of the post-human change when set against the historical experience of Eastern Europe? How does a Marxist emphasis on materiality, for instance, or Orthodox Christian conception of entrenchment in matter affect our understanding of alterity?
  • What kind of autonomy is cached in the nonhuman actors of Bruno Schulz’s ecosystem: mannequins, crustaceans, and humans whose bodies disintegrate into piles of tubing? What anxieties are expressed in Karel Čapek’s dystopic visions of intelligent newts and universal robots? Can these be seen as instances of “strategic anthropomorphism,” as conscious attempts to decenter the human?
  • On July 1, 2016, 200 watermelons were hurled at the façade of the Central Community Police Station of Belgrade, Serbia. The action protested the harassment of a watermelon vendor by the police, which had led to the man’s death. In an environment lacking in functional tools for collective communication and dissent, can a smashed watermelon open a new seam in the impasse between violence and impotence? Can the material meat of culture articulate a political language more powerful than human speech?

This conference asks participants to consider the conjunction between the animal, the plant, the machine, inorganic matter, and the human as a way to destabilize the mind-body dichotomy, class, race, gender, age, etc. By bringing Slavic studies into closer contact with a set of discourses referred to as posthumanism, our conference aims to expand the theoretical apparatus of our field and to allow for new perspectives on the histories and cultures of the region.

Guidelines for submission

Since the very notion of posthumanism arises from the cross-pollination of different disciplines, we invite scholars working in all fields whose subject matter relates to the Central and Eastern European and Eurasian region to submit 300-word abstracts to withouthumans@gmail.com by 5 November 2016. Each proposal will be matched to one of three streams led by senior scholars in the field: Jane Costlow, Serguei Oushakine, and Oxana Timofeeva.
The conference is paired with the 2017 issue of Ulbandus: The East European, Slavic and Eurasian Journal of Columbia University.

Organizer

The conference is organized by Irina Denischenko, Bradley Gorski, and Eliza Rose with the generous support of the Harriman Institute, Ulbandus: The Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Review of Columbia University, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University.​

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