The annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts will focus on the “Postnatural”

Posted by on Aug 6, 2013
The annual conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts will focus on the “Postnatural”

The theme for this year’s meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts at Notre Dame is the “Postnatural.” This topic is a point of connection between the SLSA and CENHS. In light of recent debates about the concept of the Anthropocene in circles as widely separated as geology and philosophy, meteorology and literature, chemistry and anthropology, the SLSA’s topic is a timely forum for discussing the notion that human and technological activity have reached geological proportions, so that no untouched nature exists any longer. During the 2012-2013 academic year, at least five talks given at Rice addressed the Anthropocene. Three of these were part of the Mellon-Sawyer Cultures of Energy seminar: Dipesh Chakrabarty gave a lecture entitled “Climate Justice and the Anthropos of the Anthropocene” in September, and Cymene Howe and Timothy Morton both discussed the topic in their talks at the Spring Symposium. Outside of cultures of energy, Elizabeth Povinelli (Anthropology, Columbia) and Elizabeth DeLoughrey (English, UCLA) both used the Anthropocene as a context in their talks at Rice during the Houston “winter.”  Rice English professor Cary Wolfe discussed the same topic at a large conference on the Anthropocene in Berlin in January, in a dialogue with Clair Colebrook that can be viewed here: Morton also spoke at this ( symposium on the “History and Politics of the Anthropocene” at the University of Chicago, and CENHS predoctoral fellow Derek Woods presented in a seminar stream entitled “Writing the Anthropocene” at the American Comparative Literature Association conference in Toronto in April. Other examples could be gathered to reinforce the sense that this topic is a lively one across disciplines at the current moment, especially at Rice, and elsewhere as well.

“Postnatural” is timely for this reason. Rice’s Timothy Morton and Subhankar Banerjee (whose Smithsonian exhibit was censored by the Bush administration) will give keynotes lectures at the conference, which is framed by the following questions: “What does it mean to come “after” nature? Where now is the boundary between human and nonhuman? What fundamental reorientations of theory—of posthumanity and animality, of agency, actants, and aporias, of bodies, objects, assemblages and networks, of computing and cognition, of media and bioart—are needed to articulate the simple fact that our most mundane and ordinary lives are, even in the span of our own lifetimes, unsustainable? If we are now posthuman—if we have never been natural—are we now, finally, ecological?”

The conference program can be viewed here: Numerous talks address the concept of the Anthropocene.

The SLSA has been the primary North American association for science studies and the study of relations among literature, art, and science since 1995. One can learn more about the Society and access their resources here: