Extended Deadline & New Format: CFP for April conference on Pests in History (Northwestern U.)

Guangshuo Yang's picture
January 25, 2022 to April 30, 2022
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
Animal Studies, Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, World History / Studies

Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies

Northwestern University

“When They Became Pests: Human & Nonhuman Species as Vermin in History”

HYBRID one-day event convened by T.H. Breen Graduate Fellow Guangshuo YANG
Leopold Room, Harris Hall (Rm. 108), 1881 Sheridan Rd., Evanston campus (with in-person and remote papers, livestreamed live)
Call for Papers—proposal deadline EXTENDED to February 1, 2022

Our views on nonhuman creatures, mythological or scientific, can serve as powerful symbols and metaphors to organize human identities. History is replete with cases of dehumanization that equated targeted groups to vermin and pests: nonhuman species associated with pain, fear, and disgust. The Nazi defamation of Jews as rats, and the Hutu génocidaires’ labeling of Tutsi as cockroaches are two familiar examples. However, we often take for granted the cultural meanings embodied by these nonhuman species and overlook the contingency of the meaning-making process.

Are pests and vermin socially created? If so, what conditioned the creation of such enemy species? How did certain life forms become widely accepted public enemies? Are such notions translatable across cultures? Who had the authority to make such decisions on behalf of the collective interests? How did scientific knowledge and spiritual beliefs about enemy species affect political language, cultural metaphors, social institutions, and vice versa? How did the designation of species enemies affect a culture’s relationship with other human groups, nonhuman animals, and the environment?

“When They Became Pests” seeks to explore the making of enemy species concerning human history. We welcome graduate students from different fields of humanities and social to discuss issues related to the questions raised above. The conference will take place on April 29, 2022, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. This will be a hybrid event, with papers given in person or via Zoom, livestreamed to a wider audience. Professor Susan D. JONES of the University of Minnesota will be the keynote speaker. Professor Jones is a historian of modern biomedical and life sciences focusing on the historical ecology of disease, environment, and health. For more of Professor Jones’ research, see https://cbs.umn.edu/contacts/susan-d-jones.

Interested graduate students should send a paper proposal of no more than 250 words and an updated C.V. to Guangshuo Yang (gy@u.northwestern.edu) by Tuesday, February 1, 2022. A Northwestern faculty committee will select the papers. The conference papers (10-12 pages, double-spaced) are due on April 8, three weeks before the conference, to allow time for circulation to the commentators. Presentation will run 10 minutes.

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