Radical Kinship: Interspecies Ontologies Beyond Productivity (Part 1) (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Elizabeth Tavella (University of Chicago)

In Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s Animalia, set on a pig farm, a pivotal moment occurs when the unnamed human mother, “Genetrix,” feeds her stillborn fetus to a sow, eventually leading the latter to devour her own offspring. The accidental reversal of the roles of the eater and the eaten, described in this scene, not only exposes the fragile systems of (re)production that rely on the gendered exploitation of bodies but also challenges the anthropocentric human/nonhuman animal polarity. Recently, works such as Denis Cote’s documentary Bestiaire (2012), Jerzy Skolimowski’s film EO (2022), Hartmut Kiewert’s paintings Animal Utopia (2009-2017), Alexis Gumbs’ meditation Undrowned (2020), and Talia Lakshmi Kolluri’s collection of stories What We Fed to the Manticore (2022), also express the contemporary demand for an ontological turn towards the critique of human exceptionalism. Indeed productivity, surplus, and accumulation are the critical aspects of the shared ontological state of precariousness under capitalism (Butler, 2004; Stanescu, 2012).

In its materiality, animal surplus surfaces not only in the animal-industrial complex, the clothing sector, and laboratories but also in selective breeding (animal eugenics), animal shelters, and the entertainment industry. Taking the literal framing of “surplus” as a point of departure, this panel proposes to push against the notion of productivity and the capitalist logic of reducing nonhuman animals to mere production units. The panel seeks alternative models of relationality based on non-extraction, mutuality, and solidarity across species, and calls for transdisciplinary papers in literary and media studies that aim at radically rewiring the ontological status of more-than-human animals. Can we reimagine interspecies relationships rooted in reciprocity rather than in speciesism and utilitarian ideologies? How can we recalibrate value systems toward a kin-centric, non-productive direction?

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

- Human-nonhuman intra-action (multispecies worldbuilding beyond capitalism)

- Non-extractive interspecies relationships

- Indigenous knowledges

- Speculative representations of multispecies futures

- Interspecies care and intimacy (alternative transfeminist ecologies)

- Ecological grief (precariousness of the “surplus”)

- Reframing of language(s) in non-productive terms

This panel proposes to push against the notion of productivity and the capitalist logic of reducing nonhuman animals to mere production units. The panel seeks alternative models of relationality based on non-extraction, reciprocity, mutuality, and solidarity across species.