December 5, 2007 – Cary Wolfe: ““Animal Studies,” Disciplinarity, and the Posthumanities”

“Animal Studies,” Disciplinarity, and the Posthumanities

Wednesday, December 5 / 12 PM / Humanities 210

Cary Wolfe teaches at Rice University, where he holds the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Chair in English. His recent books include Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory(Chicago, 2003), and the edited collection, Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (Minnesota, 2003). He recently founded the series “Posthumanities” at the University of Minnesota Press and is currently completing two books: What Is Posthumanism? and a collection of essays (with Branka Arsic) called The Other Emerson.

What Is Posthumanism? explores issues animating the new series at the University of Minnesota Press, “Posthumanities.” Both investigate the ways the idea of “the human” has become decentered and re-configured under pressure from a range of forces in contemporary social, material, and intellectual life. One particular manifestation of this fact is how our views of the relations between human and nonhuman animals have radically changed in the wake of myriad developments in the sciences, such as cognitive ethology, and in philosophy and ethics around areas associated with “animal rights.” At the other end of the spectrum, “the human” has been unsettled by a host of developments in technology, media, and biomedicine that have posed similarly pressing questions about the autonomy and self-determination of the human as traditionally conceived by familiar forms of humanism (particularly liberal humanism). Wolfe’s work therefore concerns itself not with the transcendence or eclipse of “the human” but rather of “humanism” and as such it confronts the various modes of embeddeness, interdependence, embodiment, and prostheticity that in a fundamental sense restore “the human” to its full complexity. What is Posthumanism? explores various attempts to think and express these developments in philosophy, “theory,” and ethics, and in cultural practices such as film, architecture, art, and music.