CFPs Events Postgraduate

CFP: Humanity and Animality in 20th and 21st Century Culture

Call for papers:


University College London (UCL)

Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies





15 September, 2014


This interdisciplinary conference takes up an important debate in a field of growing importance in the humanities, where animal studies, post-humanism, and eco-criticism have surged in recent years. The definition of mankind seems necessarily to pass through an understanding of what constitutes the animal. Philosophically, what distinguishes, or indeed brings together humanity and animality has been the subject of debate from Aristotle’s understanding of man as ‘zôon logon echon and from Kant’s view of man’s treatment of animals as an insight into the true nature of humankind, Derrida’s seminars on ‘the beast and the sovereign’, up to Agamben’s recent theory of ‘bare life’ as the breakdown of the barrier between man and animal.

Artists, authors and filmmakers, such as Kafka, Dalí, Borges, Coetzee, Primo Levi, Margaret Atwood, Karl Appel, Paula Rego, Werner Herzog (‘Grizzly Man’), and Benh Zeitlin (‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’) to name but a few, have also grappled with the significance of the divide or symbiosis of humanity and animality. Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti and Andrew Benjamin are also redefining ways in which humanity and animality can be thought together, or apart. The violent upheavals of the 20th century, with its global wars, unprecedented genocides and totalitarian experiments led to a re-evaluation of notions such as humanism and humanity, which has made way for new hopes and anxieties relating to the subhuman and the post-human.

By hosting a varied programme of papers and debates chaired by high-profile contributors to this emerging field of inquiry, this conference aims to establish a forum for researchers throughout the UK to discuss this important theoretical issue.


Topics of discussion may include but are not limited to the following questions/topics:


  • Is it possible, or even desirable to distinguish between animality and humanity?
  • In which ways does the dialectic of ‘human’ and ‘animal’ shape our identities, culture and morality?
  • Why is the comparison with animal world so important for our culture?
  • Shame, pride, sorrow, fear, anxiety, fascination, awe: how do emotions acknowledge the relation between humanity and animality?
  • How do literature, art, evolutionary theory, philosophy and other disciplines negotiate the changes undergone by the concept of the ‘human’ in the last century?
  • How have our perceptions of ‘humanity’ and ‘animality’ changed in relation to violent and extreme events such as genocide, widespread atrocity, world war etc.?
  • What does the persistence of the fascination with animals suggest about specific cultural and historical moments?
  • Are we really a Darwinian species, or do technology, morality and creativity separate us from the rest of the natural evolution?
  • How can we rethink the binary opposition between humanity and inhumanity?
  • Have we entered into a post-human era?
  • Evolutionary theory and the human condition
  • Human-Animal studies
  • Humanity and Animality in Art, Literature, Science, Philosophy, Cinema, Religion, etc.



Deadline for Abstracts: 


Please send an abstract (300 words maximum) and a short biography (50 words maximum) to byAugust 1st, 2014.


A selection of the papers will be published.


Confirmed speakers (other speakers will be announced soon):


Martin Crowley (Cambridge; University)

Robert S. C. Gordon (Cambridge University)

Pierpaolo Antonello (Cambridge University)

Florian Mussgnug (UCL)

Kevin Inston (UCL)

other speakers will be announced soon