[Paleopsych] ACLA: The Human and Its Other

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American Contemporary Literature Association Annual Meeting
The Human and Its Other
Princeton, NJ, March 23-26, 2006

Seminar Title: The Human in Posthuman Technology
Seminar Organizer(s): Steven A. Benko, Meredith College
(benkos at meredith.edu)

Answers to questions of how technology impacts definitions of what it means to 
be human, what is other than human, what constitutes the good, natural and 
normal for human life and society, and how subjects can constitute, experience 
and communicate their own otherness through technology vary widely along the 
spectrum from humanism to posthumanism. At one end are bioconservative 
responses that suggest a shared and unchanging conception of human nature 
threatened by scientific and technological advances that alter or enhance human 
capabilities and functioning. At the other end are posthuman responses that use 
science and technology as an occasion for the kind of individuation that 
relativizes and resists humanism's essentializing ethnocentrism.

This seminar will explore literary, philosophical and religious depictions of 
science and technology in terms of how what is human, other than human, and the 
relationship between the two is defined. Possible topics include:  defining the 
posthuman through literature; the use of technology to define the human and its 
other in a specific author or genre; the possibility of developing a critical 
theory of technology or an ethics of technology vis-à-vis the human, its other, 
and obligations to preserve what it means to be human or an obligation to the 
other; the use of religious rituals, tropes or imagery to restrain, encourage, 
and determine the morality of scientific and technological development and the 
depiction of what it means to be human/posthuman.

The list of accepted seminars for the 2006 Annual Meeting has been posted (go 
to the paper proposal form; go to the Seminars) and individual paper proposals 
are now being accepted.

The conference is organized primarily into seminars (or "streams"), which 
consist either of twelve papers, if they meet on all three days of the 
conference, or eight to nine papers, if they meet on two days. Papers should be 
15-20 minutes long-no longer-to allow time for discussion. To propose a paper, 
first consult the list of accepted seminar proposals. If you find a topic there 
that fits your paper, select that seminar when you fill out the paper proposal 
submission form. If you do not find a seminar topic that fits your paper, you 
may propose your paper for the general pool, out of which additional seminars 
are likely to be formed. Paper proposals are 250 words, max. Proposals are due 
no later than November 30th. Paper proposals can be submitted through the ACLA 
2006 website (http://webscript.princeton.edu/~acla06/site/). If you have any 
questions about this particular seminar, contact the seminar organizer at 
benkos at meredith.edu.


After the Post-Human, Beyond the 'Cyborg Manifesto'

Seminar Organizer(s): Katherine Arens, U of Texas at Austin

This seminar (an open call) seeks papers treating texts representing forms of 
"the human" that do not rest on the too-simple dialectic of "human"/ "other" or 
"human"/"non-/post-/in-human" privileged by today's scholars (relying 
respectively on Lacan, Haraway, Haynes, and Lyotard). Such too-simple 
differences reify concepts of the subject, identity, and agency to privilege 
Western images of individuality, naturalizing a humanist fallacy and 
privileging the victim/perpetrator dialectic. Moreover, conceptualizing the 
human as a binary (or even as staging multiple binaries) establishes "the 
human" as a necessary reference point for any theoretical investigation, an 
assumption to be contested as reifying potential critical epistemologies into a 
weak liberalism and occluding alternate theorizations of the epistemological 
and real politics inherent in post-industrial, globalized world of information 
societies. This seminar thus challenges the politics of the personal as 
limiting critical consciousness. Topics might include, but are not restricted 
to: networked rationalities; multitude; the masses; collective mind; rhizomes; 
the noosphere; organs without bodies (and without cyborgs); communities; hives; 
collectives; archives; families; matrices; webs (electronic and otherwise); 
pods; clones; virtual communities. Contributions sought which draw theoretical 
reference points beyond the boundaries of western humanism to include 
underrepresented media, groups, and other social, economic, artistic, media, 
praxiological, or epistemological units. Preference will be given to papers 
that pay clear attention to theoretical points of view while exemplifying what 
is at stake by reference to specific texts, genres, or media - to papers that 
unite theory and praxis.


Avant-Garde Androids

Ruben Gallo, Princeton University

This seminar will explore the transformations of the human body imagined by the 
various avant-gardes during the first decades of the twentieth century. This 
was a period in which the celebration of technology transformed our 
understanding of the human: the typewriter transformed women into writing 
machines; radio stripped listeners of all senses except one and electrified 
their hearing; the camera became a prosthetic eye through which the modern 
world could be seen in a radically new light; modern architecture introduced 
new possibilities of moving through space. In short, modernity turned human 
bodies into technologically-determined androids: all senses were now mechanized 
and the modern world was perceived through a series of equally modern 
prosthetic devices. This seminar welcomes paper proposals examining the various 
androids imagined by the avant-gardes: from the surrealist plot to transform 
authors into automatic writing machines to the futurist design to accelerate hu 
man movement. How were mechanical inventions recorded on the human body? What 
effects did radio, film, the gramophone, dictaphones, cameras, automobiles and 
airplanes have on the human body? How were these transformations perceived by 
various avant-garde groups around the world?


Cyborgs Old and New

Seminar Organizer(s): Stefani Engelstein, University of Missouri; Carsten 
Strathausen, University of Missouri

This panel will consider the concept of the cyborg not merely as the actual 
augmentation of the body with machinery, but rather as an acknowledgement that 
the organic is inherently mechanical. Today it is impossible to separate 
technology from biology, as new interventions in the body take the form of 
cloning and chimerical hybrids of human and animal genetic material. This 
development seems to signal a new victory over our natural limitations as we 
strive to become what Freud called a "prosthetic god," following the path 
toward a technological utopia already manifest in Robert Hooke's seventeenth 
century paean to the microscope. Every technology, however, functions through a 
tacit acceptance of our integration into nature, blending the human, the 
mechanical, and the animal. This constellation is not original to the present, 
but recurs at times that coincide with a crisis in our definition of the human. 
It is no accident that La Mettrie theorized the human as a machine at the same 
moment that Linnaeus created a classification system that made humans full 
members of the primate order in the animal kingdom. We seek original papers 
that examine the current crisis of what it means to be human without losing 
sight of the past. Is the "cyborg" still a useful term or has it become so 
ubiquitous today as to have lost its "proper" (i.e. hybrid) meaning? Are terms 
like the "post-human" (K. Hayles) or the "symbiont" (G. Longo) any better?


Ecologies of the (Post)human

Seminar Organizer(s): William Castro, Northwestern University

Generally, this panel seeks to explore the relations between the human or the 
post-human subject and its ecologies. The panel seeks contributions from 
humanists and post-humanists on the ecological, ethical, political, social, 
and/or economic consequences of such conceptions as "the human," "nature," and 
their variants One of the goals of the panel will be to debate the extent to 
which such conceptions themselves already form an or multiple ecology/ies; that 
is to say, the extent to which they already demarcate and/or engender 
territories of "real" ecological consequence. Questions to be addressed include 
but are not limited to the following:

How do race, gender, and sexuality shape the ecologies of the (post)human?
Where do (post)human ecologies end?
How are ecologies shaped by representations?
How are representations shaped by ecologies?
What kinds of ecologies are there? Are there sound ecologies, cinematic 
ecologies, etc.?
Where is the ecology of the (post)human to be situated?
What are the ecologies of empire?
Are ecologies real? What ecologies?
Are there significant differences between human and post-human ecologies?
What do ecologies exclude as part of their self-formation?


Will Any Humanism Be Possible?

Seminar Organizer(s): Antonio A. Garcia, University of Houston-Downtown

The term "humanism" has a vexed history, yet one that will not die. Many 
scholars speak in "post-human" terms, rejecting any concept of humanism on the 
grounds that the term masks negative agendas and repressive ideas. Yet many 
others find that they need to hold on to some, perhaps vitiated, concept of 
humanism, often for political reasons. For example, Edward Said, shortly before 
he died, wrote a book about humanism. Will any humanism be possible in the 
future? From this central question a range of questions could emerge. Humanism 
has been associated with technological and historical progress. Will it 
continue to be viewed this way? Is humanism possible in the future without 
progress? Will future humanism(s) hold on to some of the precepts of the 
humanist tradition, or will it take a different turn entirely, or will it exist 
at all? Will future humanism(s) be anchored in a tension between religion and 
secular culture, or is there a way to destabilize such binaries? How do we 
understand a synthetic approach to diverse cultures after postcolonial 
critiques to approach a form of global humanism? What are the effects of 
diasporic phenomena on humanism? Papers are welcome from a variety of critical 
approaches: Philosophy, Social Theory, Literary Studies, Psychology, 
Interdisciplinary Studies.


The Animal in a Post-Humanist World

Seminar Organizer(s): Kari Weil, CCA

What is the function of the animal in a post-humanist world? From Donna 
Haraway's "Companion Speicies Manifesto", to Steve Baker's discussion of 
contemporary animal art in "The Post-Modern Animal," to the philosophical 
ponderings on man and animal by Derrida and Agamben, the question of the animal 
has been foregrounded as a theoretical question for our times. In the aftermath 
of what has been seen as a "crisis in humanism" and the insufficiency if not 
impossibility of the human as promoted by the humanist enterprise, the arts and 
humanities have made a turn to the animal as a means of both exposing and 
shoring up human deficiencies especially the deficiencies of our language if 
not our ways of knowing. The term, "the animal," Derrida reminds us, is itself 
a construct of a humanist world that posed this impossible, singular identity 
to oppose and define the identity of the human. Humanism, as Agamben also 
reminds us, judged itself and its progress in terms of a mastery over "the 
animal" and the distance "the human" traveled from an animal state. Are these 
claims justified and sufficient? This panel will consider both the status of 
the animal for humanism, and the animals ( or Derrida's animot) that might 
replace the construct of the animal in a post-humanist world.

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