CfP: Living Matters: The Politics and Poetics of Neglected Life Forms (ACLA 2018)

Joela Jacobs's picture

Call for Papers

Living Matters: The Politics and Poetics of Neglected Life Forms

ACLA Seminar, 3/29-4/1, 2018 at UCLA


This ACLA seminar invites papers addressing life forms that have been largely neglected by the nonhuman turn, in its more immediate focus on animals, objects, and environmental forces or processes. We seek to engage the world of living matter that evades human perception or blends, object-like, into human environments—the overlapping worlds of plants, bacteria, fungi, and algae, among other quietly animate forms. How do these nonhumans test or defy taxonomical distinctions? How do they fix or else confuse the slippery boundaries between lives and likewise between organisms and objects? We ask how certain organisms prompt us to consider the interweaving realms of nature and culture on temporal planes or physical scales that are largely alien to the human. How, for example, might thinking alongside the tiny microbe inflect our sense of the rhythms of history, whether natural or human? In this seminar we aim to explore the myriad ways that “living matter” matters to the human—how nonhuman ‘cultures’ interact with or inform human ones. We hope to examine more closely human efforts to engage these nonhuman worlds, whether in everyday life or in the textual and discursive realms of politics, poetics, ethics, and so on. Yet this seminar also inquires into how such apparently passive nonhumans themselves act on the human, impacting our cultural forms and histories. We therefore solicit papers in literary and cultural studies that address the relationship between nonhuman processes and states—germination and growth, rooting and branching out, fruition and decay—and the institutions or practices that make up human culture.


Interested participants are asked to email the seminar co-organizers Agnes Malinowska ( and Joela Jacobs ( with a 250-word abstract and a short bio or CV by August 25th. All participants will need to submit their abstracts to the ACLA website ( between August 31st and September 21st.