The posthumanities of this Gexcel theme take as its starting point that interdisciplinary approaches within, across and beyond the human sciences - such as those developed within feminist research, postcolonial and cultural studies, queer theory, continental philosophy, eco-critique, media and technoscience studies today are well-suited to meet up with the transformations of bodies, natures (the environment) and of contemporary post-natural life at large. In fact, feminist science studies, philosophical zoontology, crip theory, body studies, human-animal studies, cyberfeminist and neurofeminist scholarship and research in areas like the environmental humanities, digital humanities and medical humanities have already drastically changed the parameters for research within the human sciences. As it becomes more clear how human bodies are reciprocally intertwined in intricate relationships with other animals, with technology, medicine and science, with the environment and biological forces beyond human control, the supremacist idea of a decontextualized human personhood defined by rationality and autonomy rather than embodiedness and material embeddedness have become increasingly difficult to sustain. Neither anthropocentrism nor androcentrism are no longer viable assumptions for ethics, epistemology, aesthetics and ontology in research. In the midst of crisis, the human sciences are already developing the analytical tools for better practices of wording and worlding. In this field we meet up, critically and creatively, with the confluences of emerging alter-ontologies, dynamic materialisms, posthuman ethics, zoographies, situated knowledges and modes of enlivening posthumous life as the transdisciplinary theory-practices of a form of posthumanities with a difference.
Strand chairs: Cecilia Åsberg & Astrida Neimanis
This strand speaks to feminist interventions in the growing area of environmental humanities. While sustainability initiatives and environmental awareness seem to appear everywhere today, the environmental humanities challenges the accepted notion that pollution, habitat loss, climate change, biodiversity, and related issues should be addressed only by natural scientists, engineers and policy makers. Fostering new ways of relating to the more-than-human world (rejecting epistemological mastery, foregrounding an embedded ethics of curiosity and concern in the encounter) are urgent aspects of environmental practice, underlining the necessary contribution of humanities perspectives. Feminist scholarship has a particular role to play here: drawing on long-standing contributions in feminist bioethics, situated knowledges, science studies, ecofeminisms, environmental justice, and contemporary new materialist scholarship, feminist work in the environmental humanities stresses reject epistemological mastery, and foreground approaches of care, curiosity, and concern need to adopt an ethical stance in relation to both different humans and non-human nature. Moreover, as a distinctly interdisciplinary or postdisciplinary field, feminist studies is particularly well-suited to navigate across disciplines to find innovative ways of examining and addressing urgent environmental issues. Our focus is to cultivate the postdisciplinary territory where feminist posthumanities meets up with environmental humanities. This is also a fertile meeting ground for artists, scientists, theorists, and other practitioners. We seek to develop this meeting ground in the form of a “co-laboratory”, an Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, for cultivating new approaches, theories and desires in relation to significant environmental matters.
This research strand continues and advances the feminist science studies tradition as it has been established and re-established by scholars such as Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Lucy Suchman, Margrit Shildrick, Stacy Alaimo, Myra Hird, Nina Lykke, Mette Bryld and Lynda Birke at the intersection of advanced cultural theory, feminist materialisms and knowledge production within the natural sciences, medicine or engineering. This field has moved from critiques of science (the woman question in science) to active engagement with “the science question in feminism” (Harding 1986), and taken a quantum leap over the three decennia after Donna Haraway’s famous cyborg manifesto. In this strand we put focus on different kinds of knowledge production, historical and material conditions of existence and bodily ethics in the medical, technical and natural sciences. Key here are transdisciplinary understandings that bridge the modern divide between nature and culture, and its corollary of bifurcations into the so called soft sciences and the so called hard sciences. This strand is marked by a deep-seated feminist commitment to the ways in which gender and intersectionality are entangled with medicine, science and technology. This small, highly influential and highly transgressive field (admixing feminism and technoscience in practice) has in recent years single-handedly reinvented large parts of the feminist conceptual apparatus in gender studies, under portmanteau terms such as for instance - new materialism, agential realism, feminist materialisms, posthumanities, and somatechnics.
Strand chairs: Cecilia Åsberg & Lissa Holloway Attaway
This research strand puts a focus on the material meaning, subjectivity and cultural impact of digital technologies and new media. Generated by an exponentially expanding creative and commercial industry, electronic media have become a crucial part of many everyday activities. Research in new media studies, feminist cultural studies and digital humanities have yet only started to comprehend the extent to which they change our culture, daily life and the ways we see ourselves and engage in and with the world. Drawing on critical combinations of feminist posthumanist theory, material-semiotics, media studies, visual theory, history, digital humanities and ways of enlivening a material humanities of interdisciplinary conversations, this strand investigates media imaginaries as important forms of contemporary social practice, shaping subjectivities and worldviews through diverse phenomena such as art, popular science, games, social media, mobile technology, digital music, computerized imaging and visualization, cultural heritage, software and, of course, the Internet. Expanding on the contemporary relevance of feminist interdisciplinary research on context, situatedness and material mediation, as well as on broadly defined humanities, this research strand contributes to the heterogeneous forms of posthumanist gender studies.
Strand chair: Cecilia Åsberg
What is life in the era of the life sciences – when genetic, neurological, chemical concepts and matters proliferate well beyond the confinements of the laboratory in popular culture and shape our sense of selfhood? Who, or what, gets to count as human, humanized, monstrous, or non-human, as natural in the natural sciences, as cultural, sexed or gendered, in humanities, science and in the wider scientific imaginary of today? This research strand will focus the question of gendered biologies, liminal lives and bodily ethics from the multiple interwoven perspectives emerging from the recent feminist reinvention of the messy relations and blurred boundaries of sex/gender, nature/culture, science/humanities. The point of departure is materialist trends in feminist theory, which have focused on embodiment and the materialities of sexed bodies – human and non-human. Against the background of a critique of feminist theories of sexual difference in the humanities and social science that have long been embedded in constructionist paradigms, materialist feminist trends have attracted the attention of feminist researchers from a broader spectrum of different disciplinary backgrounds, including medicine and biology. However, while theorizing on the relationship between human and non-human animals, technology and biology, sex and gender has figured sexual difference, differentiated subjectivity and embodiment as key feminist concerns, communication across the borders of the different theoretical strands and interdisciplines has been scarcer. Furthermore, it has been difficult to bridge disciplinary barriers between empirically-oriented research, typically carried out by bioscientists, and theoretically-oriented research, carried out by humanities and social sciences scholars, thus preventing a synergetic dialogue. Against the background of these gaps in previous research, the strand will aim at the development of new transdisciplinary research on bio-curious feminist forms of posthumanities, moving cultural feminist theory out of the anthropocentric comfort zone and into a more-than-human humanities. While we map "the human" and its constitutive inside and outside of the the Humanities, we draw in this research strand on feminist science studies roots and recent re-routes in new materialisms, on creative approaches of technoscience and cultural studies, and human-animal studies. However, we focus especially on the relationships, circulating cultural contents and synergetic exchanges between the humanities and the natural sciences, molecular biology, techno- and life sciences – as matters of urgent concern for feminist scholarship.