The Critical Life Studies Research Group
Critical life studies (CLS) is foremost a diagnosis of the state of critical theory today: the relevance of the human and social sciences is waning, the traction of current modes of thought is diminishing, and parochial academicism with its covert regression to uncritical premises is on the rise. The explosion of critical ‘turns’ and ‘studies’ in academia—e.g. the anthropocene, ontological, posthuman, and affective turns, and gender, feminist, trans, queer, critical race, postcolonial, and animal studies—promises hope for the future of theory by attempting to dethrone the anthro-ontological notion of the Human. Each intervention contributes significantly to transforming our knowledge by demonstrating the inadequacy of the concept of the Human to account for and respond to ongoing social injustices and global crises, but none has dared to ask: should we reject humanism tout court and if so, how might this be done? From the perspective of CLS, this oversight is a product of the vestigial humanism lingering in their shared, and often veiled, allegiance to a non-negotiable concept of life itself.
The core concept of critical life studies (CLS) therefore strikes at the heart of the dilemma that contemporary critical theory has been circling around: namely, the negotiation of the human, its residues, a priori configurations, the persistence of humanism in structures of thought, and the figure of life as a constitutive focus for ethical, political, and onto-epistemological questions. Despite attempts to move quickly through humanism to more adequate theoretical concepts, such haste has impeded the analysis of how the humanistic concept ‘life itself’ is preconfigured or immanent within the supposedly new conceptual leap. This strand thus addresses how we may begin to think life critically—outside the orbit and primacy of the human.
CLS is not only a diagnosis but also a bold, tripartite prescription: 1. to challenge Humanism by acknowledging the urgent need for a radical overhaul of the central proto-figure of life—whilst being alert to its inheritances; 2. to contest presumptions about life as beginning and ending in the organism, as a priority in the generation of meaning, and as a ‘special’ boundary in the constitution of ethico-political worlds; and 3. to use the departure from life as a necessary condition of new thought, obliging an engagement with all that does not have (human) life as its essential referent and center. This prescription is not meant as the horizon of all constitutive meaning, but instead a problematic that opens up a more expansive engagement with critical theory. By targeting the condition that presupposes critical thought, CLS offers scholars the possibility of moving through humanism, as well as starting and ending elsewhere, other than life—a move that is critical to envisioning ethico-political futurities.
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The Critical Life Studies Research Group (CLSRG) endeavors to foster cutting-edge and creative, independent and collaborative projects at the intersection of gender and queer theory; posthuman studies; plant, animal and viral/bacterial studies; contemporary continental philosophy; technoscience studies; anthropocene and extinction studies; environmental humanities; ontology; and ethical and socio-political theory. As such, CLSRG is comprised of a diverse group of individual scholars and linked to a number of networks, Swedish and International—some already existing, some still in the process of formation. Members of the team and some members of these networks will be divided into a variety of substrands. These substrands have multiple working groups, some of which are very specific and targeted toward narrower goals while others will attempt to broaden the scope and combine themes in innovative and interdisciplinary ways. Some members of the team participate in more than one substrand.
CURRENT SUBSTRANDS OF THE ZOONTOLOGY RESEARCH TEAM
1. Posthumous Life and Inhuman Ethics
There are several projects located in this strand. Foremost, the Critical Life Studies book series (General editors: Jami Weinstein, Claire Colebrook, and Myra Hird; Columbia University Press) and, already underway - situated to be the first publication in the series - is a co-edited volume with Claire Colebrook (Penn State University) entitled Inhuman Rites and Posthumous Life.
Confirmed authors include: Elizabeth Grosz, Rosi Braidotti, Paola Maratti, Cary Wolfe, Karen Barad, Myra Hird, Alastair Hunt, Akira Lippit, Donna V. Jones, Eugene Thacker, Nicole Anderson, Susan Heckman, and Rebecca Hill.
For more information, click here.
2. Conflict Zones: Genocide, Extinction, and the Inhuman
With co-applicants Claire Colebrook and Nina Lykke, Conflict Zones will be a large-scale, international, interdisciplinary research project.
We are currently in the process of submitting several grant proposals in order to meet together and hash out the ethical and political dilemmas of extinction and genocide, or more generally, annihilation and the possibility of the inhuman. The plan is to meet in three locations over three years as a group of around 31 theorists from a diverse range of disciplines and think together through these issues. The culmination of this project will be several co-edited volumes (along with Claire Colebrook) publishing the results of our research.
For more info on the project and participants, click here.
3. Theory Sex: Transgenres, Affects, and Ontological Queerings
This is the newest of the three strands and is still in the process of formation, the network still under construction. Some of this comes out of my own recent work reconceptualizing feminist philosophical “Sex Difference Theory,” another part is derived from my work on queer and gender theory, and the newest element--affect--has been spawned from one of the funded projects (in Bergen, Norway) of which I am a member. I have added affect to my already established research strand focusing on transgenre because of the way in which I would like to mobilize this new turn to affect, a response in some way to the age old mind-body problem, in the service of posthuman theory.
For more information, click here.
Last updated: 2015-12-02