Critical Misanthropy - A Symposium

deadline for submissions: 
April 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Amsterdam

Critical Misanthropy: A Symposium

15th May 2020

University of Amsterdam

Organizers: Emelia Quinn and Eva Meijer

Keynote speaker: Robert McKay


Our world, as many worlds before it, is disappearing. The current climate crisis, loss of biodiversity, rise of populism, and failures of neoliberalism are forcing humans to reinvent themselves and to reconfigure relations with the natural world. Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (2009, translated to English in 2018) engages with such crises in a turn to what might be characterized as a mode of critical misanthropy. The novel reflects a growing trend in contemporary environmental discourses of an inescapable sense of horror, disgust, despair, and sometimes violence directed towards our fellow human beings. In a seemingly inescapable system of violence perpetuated by humanity, is there any hope left for the human species? How do we think ourselves as human whilst grappling with issues of our complicity and culpability in systems of oppression? How can, and how should, humans reinvent themselves and reconfigure relations with the natural world? How do we come to terms with our responsibility for widespread devastation, a responsibility owed to ecosystems and animals as well as to those humans living in precarious environments? And finally, how have writers, artists, performers, literary scholars, historians, and philosophers approached these questions? In this one-day symposium we invite artists, writers, activists, and scholars together to address the subject of critical misanthropy and conceptions of the human in the age of what we might aptly term as “the misanthropocene.”


We invite abstracts on the following and related themes:

  • misanthropy and misanthropic impulses
  • animal rights and modes of animal activism
  • ethical veganism and vegan identity
  • can vegans be violent?
  • being human and how lifeworlds are mediated by time and culture
  • the posthuman and posthumanity
  • hope and the utopian, hope as a political force
  • pessimism and its uses
  • interspecies kinships and humanimal communities
  • perspectives on Olga Tokarczuk’s work
  • environmental debt and reparative environmental history
  • intersections between animal studies and queer theory
  • approaches to the Anthropocene
  • writing environmental history
  • literature and climate change
  • ecofeminism and the rehabilitation of love, care, and compassion 


To submit a paper, please send an abstract of no more than 250 words and a short biography to before April 1st 2020. 

On the 14th of May, there will be a workshop for MA- and PhD student by keynote speaker Robert McKay. Registration for the symposium and workshop ends at May 1st 2020. To register, please email your full name and institutional affiliation (if applicable) to If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.