Ways of Being / Modes of Existence: Human, animal, machine

full name / name of organization: 
Louisiana State University Department of French Studies
contact email: 
lsufrenchconference@gmail.com

Keynote Speakers:
Dominique Lestel, Ecole Normale Supérieure-Paris
Verena Andermatt Conley, Harvard University
Jeffrey T. Nealon, Penn State University

While the human being is often situated at the forefront of study in the humanities, our ways of being and modes of existence often relate to the non-human: animals, machines, tools, animate or inanimate objects, environment, the universe, the world. Our ecological coexistence as human beings with non-human beings cannot be denied. But what exactly differentiates humans from non-humans? Are the ontological, existential, and linguistic boundaries between them strictly delimited or porous? How do we define human potentiality without positing the non-human? How can we make claims about what the human is without also articulating what it is not?

Language is perhaps at the heart of the question of human being’s relationship with non-humans. Over the past century, the study of animal and digital communication and their algorithmic systems has questioned the faculty of speech as the distinguishing feature of human beings. Many of us now use technologies that allow us to communicate in ways unimaginable in the history of humankind a little over a century and a half ago. The acquisition, codification, and communication of language amongst our nearest evolutionary cohabitants transformed the way we consider our coexistence with other animal species.

Much ink has been spilled concerning the ontological or existential status of the distinctions between humans, animals, and machines. Is such a posited ontological difference between humans, animals, and machines justifiable? How do we justify or reject this?

We accept submissions in French and in English. We accept papers whose subject-matter is French or Francophone-oriented. And to encourage interdisciplinarity, we will accept papers that do not necessarily relate to French or Francophone studies, if the paper is presented in French. We strongly encourage submissions from multiple disciplines and areas of study. We also encourage submissions of two or more individuals who wish to form a panel on a particular topic related to the theme of the conference.

Please submit a one-page abstract as an attachment along with contact information, including name, institutional affiliation, degree level, email and phone number by January 30, 2013 to lsufrenchconference@gmail.com

Suggested topics and potential panels include but are not limited to:
*language acquisition and development
*linguistic preservation; archives and digitization
*computational, evolutionary, neuro-, and socio-linguistics
*ethics and bioethics: plants and animals
*ecology and ecocriticism
*world and universe; particularity and universality
*posthumanism
*anthropocentrism; ethnocentrism
*perspectivism; speciesism and anti-speciesism
*colonialism; anti-colonialism; post-colonialism; humans and animals
*aesthetics and the arts: technology and objects; animals and humans
*becoming-animal and becoming-machine
*algorithmic communication systems, networks, processes
*nature, the natural, naturalisms; culture, the cultural, culturalisms
*critical essays on historical, linguistic, literary, artistic, political, or scientific transformations between humans, animals, and machines
*urban space, empty space, public and private space
*life and the living, the non-living, the dead and the undead
*existence of non-existent, contradictory, or fictional beings
*rational animals, talking machines
*automatons from antiquity to today
*the uncanny; the sublime; liminality
*psychoanalysis, the object and the subject
*hybridity, monstrosity, cyborgs
*evolution and classification; genus and sub-genus
*community, the commonplace, life in common

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