28 Set 2020 09:00

Humanities, Ecocriticism and Multispecies Relations

Aula Magna Silvio Trentin, Ca' Dolfin, Calle de la Saoneria, 3829, Venezia

Humanities, Ecocriticism and Multispecies Relations 

Venice, 28-29 September 2020

The conference aims to investigate the interface of sustainability, ecology and the environment as reflected in religions, literature and folklore of indigenous people of Southern and Northern Asia, the Americas, etc. The focus of project is to emphasize how local cultures and ethnic and religious minorities (Dattaray and Sharma, 2018), across the twentieth century and the new millennium, address ecological crises and environmental challenges that cut across national, socio-political, epistemological and linguistic borders. Recent anthropological reasoning, fostered by the ontological turn debate (Descola, 2005; Viveiros de Castro, 1998; Ingold, 2000; Latour, 2009) tackled the issue of multispecies ethnography: it deals with the lives and deaths of all the creatures that for decades have stayed on the margins of anthropology. According to this approach, animals, insects, plants and other organisms have started to appear alongside humans with legibly biographical and political lives (Agamben, 1998). Focused on the changing contours of the “nature” wriggling within whatever “human nature” might mean, multispecies ethnography recalls that “human nature is an interspecies relationship”, as Anna Tsing would put it (Tsing 1995:94). This last statement may also refer to the connections between humans and non-humans.

Anthropological accounts that deal with animals, but also with other non-humans such as invasive plants, microbes ramify across places and spaces, entangling bodies, polities, and ecologies. Multispecies ethnographers, like multisited ethnographers, follow genes, cells, and organisms across landscapes and seascapes, shaping what Bruno Latour has defined the “nature-culture” articulation of relations among humans and non-humans. He argues that social scientists should not decide in advance what sorts of things constitute “society” and what sorts of things constitute “nature” (see 1993; 2004), instead, they should proceed as if those categories are the outcomes, not the starting points, of complex negotiations between people and objects.

In a broader perspective, is it possible to declare that forests think? Are the stones moving? Can the mountains do politics? Who can speak for the non-humans? All these issues are becoming more and more relevant in contemporary debates, as they inevitably merge into the most global concerns for sustainability and exploitation of the planet's resources. 

The scholars taking part in the conference are expected to propose a reflection on the diverse ways the relationship human / non human (plant, animals, spirits) is imagined, produced and articulated in different contexts. At stake are the emerging challenges of climate change and environmental issues scenarios as dealt with by the humanities. The conference is intended as an event which aims to stimulate a new international debate on the issues of ecocritcism.


L'evento si terrà in inglese


Dipartimento di Studi sull’Asia e sull’Africa Mediterranea (Stefano Beggiora), International Center for the Humanities and Social Change, Università di Torino


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