Thinking of Difference: Critical Approaches to Narratives of the Non-human (Roundtable)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Forrest Johnson (York University)

Studies of critical post-humanisms often employ narratives of the non-human--material objects, animals, cyborgs, the environment, etc. This approach, as described by Neil Badmington, is a move away from “megalomania” and towards a “thinking of difference." A variety of methods have been able to open up the world of the technical, aesthetic, or theoretical processes of the non-human through asking questions such as: what sort of entanglement of materials and histories occur “when species meet”? (Haraway); how does technologic intermediation occur and how does it define us? (Hayles); and what sort of agency is present in objects or “things” (Barad).

This panel seeks to investigate particular narrative strategies of describing the non-human experience in literature, drama, philosophy, and art throughout the ages (not simply the 21st century). Papers for this panel are invited to reflect the following questions: how are ideas of the non-human transmitted in literature, art, and other media and how can we assess them? What trends, novel methods, gaps, or fallbacks are present as humans attempt to understand the other? Further, how do narrative strategies across media or time periods compare or contrast?

Possible approaches to investigating narrative strategies may include but are non limited to:

-Evocations and portrayals of the non-human in literatures

- Creating worlds and spaces for the non-human

-Visual representations of the non-human in art, theatre, and film

-The non-human as a boundary-crossing hybrid / the experience of crossing boundaries

-Processes of inclusivity and exclusivity

-The non-human as a philosophical or political symbol

-The relationship between the ancient interpretations of non-human and modern definitions of the non-human

- Implications of gender and performativity in non-human narratives

-Panpsychism and the non-human

- The representation of non-human spaces

By contemplating the many contexts and depictions of the non-human, this panel will not only gain a better understanding of the multiple connotations of the term, but will also contribute to the ever evolving field of the Humanities.

This panel seeks to investigate the narrative strategies of post-human subjects--in particular those of the non-human. Papers are invited to contemplate the following questions: how are ideas of the non-human transmitted in literature, art, and other media and how can we appropriately assess them? What trends, novel methods, gaps, or fallbacks are present as humans attempt to understand the other?