Symposium at Williams College: After Humanism (Sept. 23-24)

In order to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oakley Center for the Humanities and the Social Sciences at Williams College, its current director, Michael Brown (Dept. of Anthropology) has organized a symposium on the topic of posthumanism, which will take place September 23-24, 2010. Michael has gathered together an impressive list of speakers for this event (see below), so if you live within driving distance of Williamstown, please consider joining us for it.

Here is the description of the event, followed by the list of scheduled presenters:

One of the burdens of being human is that we can imagine a world without human beings or a world in which the boundary between our species and others begins to collapse or a world in which our prospects are no longer limited by our “meatware,” the physical bodies that contain us. In fact, all three of these visions have emerged as possible human futures. This has given rise to a loose tangle of philosophies or speculative engagements known as posthumanism. Whether utopian or dystopian, posthumanist thought wrestles with the constraints of human embodiment even as it questions conventional pieties about the moral superiority of our species on an imperiled planet.

This Oakley Center Symposium will offer multiple perspectives on how posthumanist thought is reshaping fields as disparate as history, ethics, primatology, and literary studies. Some participants will explore what happens to the interpretation of events if we de-emphasize the role of human agency. Others document how our engagement with machines or non-human species changes our inner life in profound ways. Still others are troubled by the apparently growing belief that pharmaceuticals and prosthetic technologies will eventually transform us into beings who are no longer conventionally human. Together the participants will attempt to identify key elements of posthumanist thought and share ideas about its impact on the traditional humanities.

Here are the participants:

  • David Christian (History, Macquarie Univ.)
  • Erik Davis (Independent scholar and journalist)
  • Carl Elliott (Bioethics, Univ. of Minnesota)
  • Sarah Franklin (Sociology and Bioethics, LSE)
  • Geoffrey G. Harpham (Director, National Humanities Center)
  • N. Katherine Hayles (English, Duke)
  • Barbara J. King (Anthropology, William & Mary)
  • Richard Sennett (Sociology, LSE and NYU)
  • Sarah Whatmore (Geography, Univ. of Oxford)
  • Cary Wolfe (English, Rice)
  • Michael E. Zimmerman (Director, Center for Humanities & Arts, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder)

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