[UPDATE / near deadline] "animal.machine.sovereign." Graduate conference

full name / name of organization: 
Department of Comparative Literature, SUNY Buffalo

Event: April 15-16, 2011
Abstract Deadline: January 3, 2011

Timothy Campbell (Cornell University)
Catherine Malabou (University of Paris X-Nanterre)
David E. Johnson (SUNY Buffalo)

2011 Graduate Student Conference
Department of Comparative Literature
State University of New York at Buffalo

For more information, please visit the conference website at:

Contributors to the conference must be currently enrolled graduate students and are encouraged to engage in presentations that probe the political constitution of the human-animal divide as a condition for thinking sovereignty, law, nation, the State, and politics in general.

Politics begins with the sovereign hospitality toward those included and the decision against those excluded from the law. From the very beginning, as early as Aristotle, politics has been described as a uniquely human activity distinct from the apolitical realm of animals. The human sits inside the political sphere while the animal finds itself always commanded outside. Politics begins with inclusion/exclusion and, thus, with definition. The human, that uniquely political being, therefore requires a definition that distinguishes it from the animal. Agamben refers to the production of this caesura between the human and the animal as an "anthropological machine." The caesura, however, is never absolute. Whether one considers Arendt's argument that the "barbarian" was excluded from the polis because he lacked a fundamental trait of the human condition or Agamben's analysis of Nazi propaganda's animalization of the Jews in order to legitimize the "Final Solution," one recognizes that the exclusion of human beings from politics occurs when humanity is reduced to an animalistic appellation. Those excluded from politics are denied the very political condition that has classically distinguished humans from animals.

While modern sovereignty excludes animals by producing a certain definition of the human being, the sovereign retains animalistic traits insofar as "he" is excluded from covenants and, therefore, the law. At the same time, however, Schmitt argues that, by concealing the traces of its supra-lawful position, modern sovereignty becomes a kind of machine: an impersonal and lifeless body of laws unfolding and ruling outside of a requisite human will. As either animal or machine (or as both), sovereignty appears situated at the limit between the human, the mechanical, and the animal. It is precisely this limit that the proceedings of this conference seek to interrogate.

Possible topics to address include the following: individuality and community; autonomy and heteronomy; bios and zoe; power and domination; democracy and authority; legitimacy and violence; legality and exception; hospitality and the arrival; enmity and friendship; life and world; natality and mortality; the sacred and the secular; production and reproduction; ideology and state machineries.

With the exception of the keynote address, participants in this conference will be limited to current graduate students only. Presentations will be strictly limited to twenty minutes per speaker. Please send 250-350 word paper abstracts, as well as a brief biographical introduction (no longer than 200 words) to the conference organizers at: animal.machine.sovereign@gmail.com.

All submissions are to be submitted in an electronic e-mail attachment (preferably MS Word) and are due no la