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Anthropology Beyond the Human?


October 7-8


Prof. Shaila Seshia Galvin, IHEID

Jonas Köppel, Facundo Rivarola, Rosie Sims, IHEID


Prof. Heather Anne Swanson, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Prof. Mario Blaser, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies Newfoundland and Labrador's University, Canada


The anthropos in 'anthropology' has been unsettled. The Anthropocene heralds an age where humankind's indelible impact on the planet marks a new geological epoch, opening what it means to be human to renewed scrutiny. Climate change and ecological devastation compel us to acknowledge the multiple living beings and ecosystems that compose our world, and the connections that bind us together. During such times, we must not forget that the Anthropocene risks denying differences within the category of the "human" (Blaser 2019). Not all humans are equally responsible for the current state of the world; and as feminist and postcolonial critiques have long shown, not all humans have been considered equally human. Here too, what anthropos means can no longer be taken for granted. Indeed, "the concept of the human has exploded" (Braidotti 2013, 1), signaling an ethical and political imperative to rethink the multiple and unequal relations that we entertain with other beings (Galvin 2018). How can we take the posthuman critique seriously while addressing questions of human responsibilities and inequalities? What should 'anthropology' mean after we unsettle the modern human subject? Thinking beyond the human can take different shapes and trajectories. There is an array of work across disciplines such as anthropology, STS, human geography, and environmental humanities that takes seriously insects, nonhuman animals, microbes, viruses, forests, plants, and other matters, recasting them as actors who mutually influence each other (e.g. Bennett 2010; Cohen 2011; Haraway 2008; Kohn 2013; Paxson 2008; Tsing 2015). In this vein, multispecies ethnography (see Kirksey and Helmreich 2010; Ogden, Hall, and Tanita 2013; Livingston and Puar 2011) has emerged as an approach militating against human exceptionalism in order to adopt a more ethical conceptualization of our place in this world. Such a perspective considers the human subject as not just coexisting with other beings, but as coming into being through the corporeal, material, and social relationships with them. This raises two particular questions that we take as starting points for (re)thinking anthropology beyond the human. First, how, and to what extent, can anthropology contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of being human through the study of more-than-human bonds and entanglements? Second, if more-than-human worlds are encompassed within our research, how do we represent them in ethnographic work (Kirksey 2014), and how do we engage with epistemological practices that usually do this representation, but which are not our own (Swanson 2017)?


To be announced



Deadline for registration 15.08.2021
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