Next Meeting: 3 February

Our next meeting will take place on Monday, February 3rd at 6:30pm – 8pm at King’s College London, Strand campus, room S2.39. As per usual, all are welcome, and snacks / drinks will be provided! This meeting will have a more traditional format than the previous ones, as we will be listening to two papers:

Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn (PhD student, Queen Mary University of London) – ‘Apichatpong and Agamben: Terminating Anthropological Machine in Tropical Malady

Abstract: Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul made his name in the international scale with films like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) and Tropical Malady (2004). For the cinema of Apichatpong, forest is a signature landscape. Not only that forest is a setting for most of his films, but the landscape is also a playground that holds a promise of a non-anthropocentricism. At the center of the haptic forest, it is a space of interconnection between man and magical creatures such as a ghost monkey, a talking catfish and a man-tiger. These creatures are outstanding enough to be a long-lasting image the spectators remember after watching his films. If the relationship between human and animal, or any magical beings, is the recurring theme in his films, this element is, by far, less researched compared to the studies on the film’s reception and its position as a local-transnational auteur cinema. To open the discussion on Apichatpong’s cinema with the framework of critical animal studies, I match his cinema with the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. In The Open: Man and Animal, Agamben treats the various marking points that have been designed to draw a line between human and animal as ananthropological machine – a man-made discourse that is not already naturally included in a structure of human. Rather, it is ‘a historical production which…can be properly assigned neither to man nor animal.’ (Agamben, 2004: 36). Not only does he want us to realize the politics of the discourse but he also provokes us to terminate the anthropological machine. Echoing Agamben’s concept, this paper will discuss how Apichatpong presents the blur area between human and nonhuman and how he abolishes the anthropological machine, with his cinematic style, in his award winning Tropical Malady(2004).

Dr Chris Pak (University of Liverpool) – ‘ “Earth is that Blank Materiality of Nature that Exists Before Us”: Nature’s Otherness and Terraforming’

Abstract: Science fiction (sf) has traditionally explored multiple forms of otherness, whether this is based upon species, racial, gender, socio-economic or cultural dimensions. Terraforming (or geoengineering if conducted on Earth), the adaptation of planetary landscapes, is an sf motif that centres on the interaction between the human and the non-human, the latter often conceived of in terms of a “nature” defined against “culture”. This notion of nature in sf is contested at a fundamental level. Terraforming narratives deploy various strategies to scrutinise the human / non-human relationship, providing a space for enviro-ethical reflection on what nature means, given the epistemological challenge that manifestations of radical otherness in sf represents to human knowledge systems. Terraforming offers a space for environmental philosophical speculation over the concept of nature’s otherness, the relationship of difference that non-human nature bears to the human, and to what Eric Otto has called the Illusion of Disembeddedness from nature, the notion that humankind denies their dependency and connectedness to nature. Between the two poles of difference and identity, various types of otherness offer ways to explore different relationships to nature, whether this be cosmological nature, nature as defined against culture, or human nature.  The sf terraforming tradition includes a wide variety of treatments of all these issues and, taken as a whole, provides an imaginative space and a library of examples for thinking about nature, humankind’s relationship to that nature, and the relationship of planetbound nature to the wider nature of the solar system and, indeed, the universe. During this discussion, several examples of sf narratives of terraforming, such as Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 Star Maker and Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed Mars trilogy (Red Mars 1992, Green Mars 1993 and Blue Mars 1996), will be explored and discussed for their contributions to thought about nature.

So, it promises to be a very interesting meeting indeed – we hope to see you there!

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About beingnonhuman

Being Non/Human is an interdisciplinary discussion group aimed at postgraduates and early career researchers. The group was set up and is run by Sophia Wilson and Lydia Zeldenrust. Our group is funded by the English departments of King’s College London and Queen Mary, University of London. View all posts by beingnonhuman

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