Each year the Center designates a theme that lends itself to multidisciplinary study as the subject for its research. Around this theme we present a full program of public lectures, seminars, symposia, and conferences.

May 3-5, 2012
The Nonhuman Turn

Schedule   |   Travel Information   |   Curricular Guide
Think Make Digital   |   Weather Patterns

This conference takes up the “nonhuman turn” that has been emerging in the arts, humanities, and social sciences over the past few decades. Intensifying in the 21st century, this nonhuman turn can be traced to a variety of different intellectual and theoretical developments from the last decades of the 20th century:

actor-network theory, particularly Bruno Latour’s career-long project to articulate technical mediation, nonhuman agency, and the politics of things

affect theory, both in its philosophical and psychological manifestations and as it has been mobilized by queer theory

animal studies, as developed in the work of Donna Haraway, projects for animal rights, and a more general critique of speciesism

the assemblage theory of Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Latour, and others

new brain sciences like neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence

new media theory, especially as it has paid close attention to technical networks, material interfaces, and computational analysis

the new materialism in feminism, philosophy, and marxism

varieties of speculative realism like object-oriented philosophy, vitalism, and panpsychism

and systems theory in its social, technical, and ecological manifestations

Such varied analytical and theoretical formations obviously diverge and disagree in many of their aims, objects, and methodologies. But they are all of a piece in taking up aspects of the nonhuman as critical to the future of 21st century studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Honeycomb image

Running roughly parallel to this nonhuman turn in the past few decades has been the “posthuman turn” articulated by such important theoretical works as Katherine Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman and Cary Wolfe’s What Is Posthumanism? Thinking beyond the human, as posthumanism is sometimes characterized, clearly provides one compelling model for 21st century studies. But the relation between posthumanism and humanism, like that of postmodernism to modernism, can sometimes seem as much like a repetition of the same as the emergence of something different.

Thus, one of the questions that this conference is meant to take up is the relation between posthumanism and the nonhuman turn, especially the ways in which taking the nonhuman as a matter of critical, artistic, and scholarly concern might differ from, as well as overlap with, the aims of posthumanism. In pursuing answers to such questions, the conference is meant to address the future of 21st century studies by exploring how the nonhuman turn might provide a way forward for the arts, humanities, and social sciences in light of the difficult challenges of the 21st century.

Plenary speakers include:

Jane Bennett (Political Science, Johns Hopkins)

Ian Bogost (Literature, Communication, Culture, Georgia Tech)

Wendy Chun (Media and Modern Culture, Brown)

Mark Hansen (Literature, Duke)

Erin Manning (Philosophy/Dance, Concordia University, Montreal)

Brian Massumi (Philosophy, University of Montreal)

Tim Morton (English, UC-Davis)

Steven Shaviro (English, Wayne State)

In addition to the plenary speakers, the conference will hold several breakout sessions on the following topics: Objects, Death, Ethics, Animals, Mediation, [...] Human, Arts, Performance, Rhetoric, and Queer/Feminism/Gaga.

Art: Weather Patterns

Investigations: Think Make Digital

Twitter hashtag: #c21nonhuman

Live video streaming of plenary speakers:

Printed program (PDF, intended for double-sided printing)

Conference website

Call for Conference Proposals

The Center seeks proposals that will further its mission of promoting cutting-edge research and encouraging dialogue across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, arts, and humanistically informed social sciences. Topics should have the potential both of appealing to a broad range of researchers in and around UWM and of having a wider impact on scholarly debates in the humanities nationally and internationally. Any topic that falls within the humanities, broadly conceived, has interdisciplinary appeal, and does not duplicate recent conferences may be proposed. Descriptions and some programs of recent conferences are available below.

Past Conferences

Embodied Placemaking in Urban Public Spaces | Fall 2010 (October 8, 2010) | Spring 2011 (April 29, 2011)

DEBT (April 28 - May 1, 2010)

Since 1968 (October 23-25, 2008)

In Terms of Gender: Crosscultural and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (May 4-5, 2007)

In/Dependence: Disability, Welfare, and Age (April 7, 2006)

Art of the State: Sovereignty Past and Present (October 21-22, 2005)

Routing Diasporas (April 8-9, 2005)

Museums and Difference (November 14-15, 2003)

9/11: Reconstructions (October 4-5, 2002)

Just Feelings: Citizenship, Justice, and the Emotions (April 27-28, 2001)

Representing Animals (April 13-15, 2000)

Knowing Mass Culture/Mediating Knowledge (April 29 - May 1, 1999)

Anthropology, Genetic Diversity, and Ethics (February 12-13, 1999)

Public Showing (April 16-18, 1998)

Biotechnology, Culture, and the Body (April 24-26, 1997)

Women & Aging: Bodies, Cultures, Generations (April 18-20, 1996)

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