NEMLA 2022 Baltimore: Uses and Misuses of Care in a Critical Posthumanist Framework

Elif Sendur's picture
September 30, 2021
Maryland, United States
Subject Fields: 
Animal Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Film and Film History, Women's & Gender History / Studies
Uses and Misuses of Care in a Critical Posthumanist Framework

Critical posthumanism is situated at the intersection of posthuman studies, ecocriticism, technology studies, and ethics, where human exceptionalism is rejected in favor of an ontologically diverse approach to human existence. Here, the normative anthropocentric view of the world is replaced with a more immanent and equitable paradigm where human subjects are asked to reconsider their relationship with others, especially non-human others who share their environment, in a relational way. This approach demands that the subject-object relation be formed co-constitutively. In this repositioning, all things (including humans) gain ontological reality in a relation of radical equality where an outside or superior position is no longer tenable. Prominent posthumanist scholars like Donna Haraway, Stacey Alaimo, Rosi Braidotti, Bruno Latour, Claire Colebrook, and others underline the ethical and existential urgency of developing novel ways to think about care. Yet while this framework invites us to understand that relations among beings precede selfhood, a post-humanist ethics of care might be difficult to imagine, since ethics is inherently related to humanist understandings of selfhood: as Foucault noted in Care of the Self, this self has “control over itself, and of the way it can establish a complete supremacy over itself” (p. 239).

This roundtable invites us to think about the limits of the self when it comes to ethical relations with human or non-human others by examining the uses and abuses of posthumanist models of care in literature and film: for example, one might think of Lilith in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis, whose care for the absolute other results in both a new ontological species and a betrayal to humanity, or Miyazaki’s Nausicaa’s care for Ohmu’s as a way to relate to radical others. What would non-anthropocentric, post human, or non-human models of care look like? What are the limits of such care? What happens to the self when this kind of care is performed?

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

· Entanglements, non-human care and its limits

· Posthumanist embodiment and care amongst bodies

· Science fiction, New Weird and Speculative Fiction portrayals of care

· Reproduction and childcare within a posthumanist framework

· Ecofeminism and the ethics of care

· Critique of self-care as neoliberal (and commodified) coping mechanism

· Biopolitics/ necro-politics of care

· Symbiosis and entanglement in SF/ Weird film and literature

· Decolonial imaginations of care and the self

· Animal Studies


Please submit a brief 300-500 word proposal with a short bio to the NeMLA submission page by September 30 ,2021:

For questions please contact Dr. Elif Sendur and Dr. Allison Mackey
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