Conflict Zones: Genocide, Extinction, and the Inhuman
Application submitted to Vetenskapsrådet
The topic of extinction of non-human species has received significant attention from disciplines beyond the humanities for several decades. Human extinction and the ongoing viability of current modes of human society have, over the past decade, begun to feature in projects in the natural and social sciences. This project will not only draw several disciplines from the humanities into this emerging conversation; it will also question the various ways in which all disciplines – from the humanities and sciences – formulate questions regarding the sustainability of human life. In this respect it will link the problem of species extinction to various other conflicts that require and enable new questions regarding the future of human existence. The working hypothesis of this study is that the conflict between humans and their environment – evidenced now in climate change and resource depletion – needs to be considered alongside other species threats, including genocide, bioterrorism and the cultural tensions among disciplines, nations, religions and ethnicities. The increasingly popular field of posthuman studies, we contend, has failed to address the genuinely ‘post-human’ problem of the conflicts between the human species and its environment, and the human species and its cultural and political milieus.
There is, we think, a two-fold sense that needs to be considered in current theorizations of what has come to be known as the ‘post-human.’ On the one hand projects that focus on animal life, technological systems, and inorganic life have stressed a need to think beyond the humanist paradigms of ethics. If we only attribute worth, dignity, and rights to the human species, this not only continues a long-standing disregard for the milieus that are crucial for our survival, it also threatens many humans who would not meet the standard criteria for agency. (Work on disability studies and animal studies has been crucial here). At the same time that the globe is threatened by traditionally ‘human’ modes of behavior (including all the technologies that have been essential for our cultural and political development), there has also been a global threat to all the features that have defined human existence. Alongside the enthusiasm for considering non-human and post-human life, events of genocide, internment, torture, terrorism, and resource depletion have been responsible for dehumanisation. This project will therefore desist from adopting any model of ‘post-humanism’ and will, instead, regard the human, humanism, and the humanities as sites for contestation and conflict.
Although humanism and dehumanization are not new topics for research or enquiry, this project begins from the study of the limits of human life by drawing attention to the intensified threats to human existence that have marked the twenty-first century. These include genocide, viral disaster, resource depletion bio-terrorism, systemic collapse, global financial networks that diminish democratic agency, and technological developments that cannot be managed by traditional conceptions of political deliberation. There is, then, in addition to conflict among humans, and conflicts between humans and their milieu, a conflict at the very heart of the concept of the human. On the one hand, contemporary events seem to demand a consideration of non-humanist modes of ethics (considering other species and the broader life of the planet), yet the twenty-first century seems to threaten humanity and the humanities in ways that appear to demand a maintenance rather than disregard of all that has come to be known as human.
Accordingly, this study aims to develop innovative critical and disciplinary models in response to the specific political, humanitarian and epistemological challenges of the twenty-first century. Our objectives include an enhanced understanding of the conflicts that face humans as a species and as a cultural-historical phenomenon, along with an increased awareness of the ways in which disciplines have failed to meet these challenges. The project thus has framed two key aims: to conduct an explicit and focused analysis of the ethics, politics, epistemology, and ontology of conflict, and to formulate a novel post-humanist methodological framework consisting of new ways to address such conflicts.
The project will have several outcomes. The first will be a new genuinely transdisciplinary approach to the conflicts of our age. The second will be the formation of an international network of distinguished researchers, whose work has, until now, been in resonance only at an implicit level and who have never before been assembled in a single collective research project. With the projected publications in print and web-based outputs, this project will have positive and lasting impact on research that will extend far beyond the timeframe of the current proposal. The third and most important outcome will be a new understanding of the humanities that no longer assumes – but directly queries – the norms of humanity at its own and other disciplines’ methodological center.
• Frida Beckman (Postdoctoral Fellow, Linköping University)
• Malin Ah-King (Postdoctoral Researcher in Gender Studies, Uppsala University)
• Måns Andersson (Postdoctoral Researcher, Linköping University, Tema Genus)
• Tora Holmberg (Assistant Professor of Sociology, Uppsala University)
• Gaudencia Mutema (Postdoc in Gender Studies, University of Bergen)
• Harlan Weaver (Doctoral Candidate in History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz; Visiting Research Fellow in Gender Studies, Uppsala University)
• Rosi Braidotti (Distinguished Professor, Utrecht University; Director, The Humanities Center)
• Luciana Parisi (Senior Lecturer at The Center for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University)
North American participants:
• Giovanna Borradori (Professor of Philosophy, Vassar College)
• Rich Doyle (Professor of Rhetoric and Science Studies, Penn State University)
• Nicole Fermon (Professor of Political Science, Fordham University)
• Elizabeth Grosz (Professor of Women’s Studies, Duke University)
• Myra Hird (Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in Environmental Studies and Obstetrics/Gynecology, Queen's University)
• Donna V. Jones (Assistant Professor of English, UC Berkeley)
• Akira Mizuta Lippit (Professor of Cinematic Arts, Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California)
• Anne McClintock (Simone de Beauvoir Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin)
• Anne O’Byrne (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, SUNY Stony Brook)
• Cary Wolfe (Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor and Chair of English, Rice University, English)
Debra Bergoffen (Professor Emeritus, George mason University)
Zie: Anna-Maria Sörberg (journalist) and Elina Grandin (writer, graphic designer)
Last updated: 2013-04-06