Being with Others in More-Than-Human Worlds

deadline for submissions: 
February 18, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University

Being with Others in More-Than-Human Worlds

Graduate Student Conference
Johns Hopkins University
Department of Anthropology

May 4-5, 2018

Keynote Speaker: Natasha Myers, York University

Recent discussions on the Anthropocene have refocused attention on the ways in which our lives are intimately and inextricably bound up with those of others, both human and nonhuman. These discussions have also given rise to a plethora of ethical questions concerning how we might move away from narratives of mastery and control of nature and engender broader feelings of a shared, more-than-human world. But what does it mean to inhabit a shared world with others beyond our own species? More specifically, what processes of attunement must occur for a feeling of shared experience to become possible? This conference seeks to explore the multi-sensory, embodied, affective, and intellectual alignments operative within human relationality with nonhuman others, and consider the ethical and political stakes brought about by more-than-human entanglements in a fragile world, increasingly seen to be at the edge of catastrophe. In examining the nature of being with others, we envision this conference both as a conceptual intervention and a methodological reflection. Working with a capacious view of the nonhuman—animals, plants, spirits, objects, landscapes, the atmosphere, etc.—we warmly invite proposals that examine the modes of being and working with that are operative within more-than-human networks of relationality. Some of the questions we hope to explore are:

  • How might attention to processes of attunement and sympathy help us to think through the situated, affective, and relational aspects of knowledge that extend not only into the social but also into the world beyond the human?
  • How might we imagine being with as an active process? What sort of labor or practice does being with entail? When does being with fail or reach its limits?
  • How do modes of being with others set the conditions for care in more-than-human worlds? What might they do to our picture of the human?
  • What roles do proximity/engagement, distance/detachment, and companionship/companionable living play in attuning to the experience of others in more than human worlds?  How do these factors encourage or discourage ethical entanglements beyond the human?
  • When and how can being with become suffocating or overwhelming, and induce fatigue or abandonment? How can we account for the violence in intimacy?
  • How might attention to concrete embodied encounters of being with others help us rethink dominant pictures of ethics and politics?
  • How can we conceptualize being with “hyperobjects,” like climate change (Morton 2013)?
  • How do narratives of catastrophe—of climate change, the Anthropocene etc.—influence the conditions of being with others in different settings? In other words, how does the anticipation of catastrophe color the processes involved in being with others? What gets highlighted; what gets suppressed?
  • What is the role of media and mediation methodologically in these processes of being with others? What technologies mediate attunement (e.g. prostheses, scientific instruments, psychedelics, noticing, etc.)? What are the possibilities and limitations of such mediations?
  • What can these questions tell us about ethnography as a practice of being with others? Through what means and media could we “re-present” the multi-sensory and embodied processes of being with others? What are the possibilities and limits of writing in this regard?


The Conference

The conference will take place on May 4-5, 2018, at Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus. We are happy to announce that Natasha Myers (York University) will join us as the keynote speaker.

We encourage graduate student submissions from diverse backgrounds to raise an interdisciplinary discussion on the theme of being with others in more-than-human worlds. As we wish to reflect seriously on the question of methodology and representation in knowing human-nonhuman entanglements, we welcome proposals in multiple formats, including traditional paper presentations, ethnographic film, experimental art, audio presentations, and performance art.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to by February 18th, 2018.