Call for Papers: Inhumanities

Theme: Inhumanities
Subtitle: Violence, Aesthetics and Scholarship after the Human

Type: UCLA Comparative Literature Graduate Student Conference
Institution: Comparative Literature, University of California Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles, CA (USA)
Date: 22.–23.2.2013
Deadline: 30.11.2012


The term inhumanity is most often evoked as a moral condemnation, marking and redeeming the human. In contemporary global politics, inhumanities are acts of violence and brutality expelled from humanity’s realm, demanding and justifying humanity’s intervention.
And yet, the human/inhuman divide is itself marked by violence; a history of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, and war have shown how definitions of the human and of humanism, be they conceptual, juridical or aesthetic, have underlined and participated in brutal forms of dehumanization. Today, emergent technologies of necropolitics continue to render entire populations disposable.

In scholarship of the past decades, anti-humanist deconstruction, manifest for example in Lyotard’s reclamation of the inhuman, has given way to post-humanist accounts of new forms of creative evolution, refusing to keep various species of organisms, technologies and matters apart, constructing new ontologies of ethical thinking beyond or apart from the human, and provoking the emergence of figures such as the cyborg, the homo sacer, the negated or affective subject, the planetary creature, ephemeral specters and vibrant matter, among others. Theory after the human often turns to biological and technological discourses, taking place conspicuously at the same moment as an institutional divestment of the Humanities.

At this time of disciplinary transition, this conference seeks to question the political and aesthetic currencies of various theories of the inhuman. We wish to reflect on inhumanities as conceptual, figurative, temporal, geo-political, or juridical moments in which the human is marked as an absence, suspended or negated, and at the same time, to consider the human’s persistence and resistance to these operations.

We invite graduate students to submit abstracts of 250-350 words that engage with these and related issues from a broad range of approaches and theoretical lines of inquiry, through literary analysis, critical theory and philosophy, film and performance studies, anthropology, history, and others. Papers may address, but are by no means limited to, the following questions:

– What political, philosophical or aesthetic orders are deemed inhuman? What happens when they are described as such?

– Is there aesthetics of inhumanity? How is inhumanity represented in art, literature, cinema, music, popular culture?

– How is the inhuman commensurate with the animal, the monster, the barbarian, the bureaucratic institution, or the machine?

– What is the status of humanism today? How do early non-Western humanist traditions, or the critical, anti-colonial humanisms of the last century, speak to contemporary debates on humanism and post-humanism?

– Is there a relation between violence and the constitution of the human? Could rethinking the human-inhuman divide point towards a horizon of nonviolent ethics or a new ontology of the subject?

– What would the post-Humanities look like institutionally and intellectually? How will they reflect the changes in the human/inhuman landscape?

Abstracts of 250-350 words and a CV are due by Friday, November 30, 2012.

Please email submissions to:


Inhumanities Conference
Comparative Literature Department
University of California Los Angeles
350 Humanities Building
405 Hilgard Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1536

About Sarah Sage

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