Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English)
Samantha Frost (Political Science/Gender & Women's Studies)
Radhika Govindrajan (Anthropology)
Susan Koshy (Unit for Criticism)
Trish Loughran (English/History)

Over the last three decades, scholars across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines have begun to question the ramifications of anthropocentrism within Western philosophy and to reconsider the role the nonhuman might play within conceptualizations of affect, being, and relationality. Work in this area includes posthumanism, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, affect, new materialism, and interspecies relations, all of which have emerged to address the plasticities of systems and networks that inform how we think about the world in the 21st century. The readings for the seminar will explore these theories, examining how the category of the nonhuman addresses questions of ecology, animacy, matter, gender, and performativity from anthropology to videogame studies. Some of the questions we will discuss include: What is the non-human turn and how do its varieties relate to one another? How does this turn to the nonhuman reframe questions of the cultural and the political? What happens to issues of race, sexuality, gender, colonialism, and indigeneity when objects displace humans as the center of inquiry? And how do digital worlds, with their emphasis on the programmatic level of code, inform how objects, networks, and systems are theorized and experienced?

Graduate student participants are invited to submit, at the end of the seminar, brief position papers (2-4 double-spaced pages) that address a question, idea, or methodological approach related to the core readings. The goal of these papers will be to articulate the role that the turn from the human towards objects, things, networks, actors, code, animals, materialisms, etc. plays or might play in the participant's current research (dissertation, paper, etc.). A two-hour workshop will meet two weeks after the conclusion of seminar to discuss these position papers and will be led by Jodi Byrd, Sam Frost, Radhika Govindrajan, Susan Koshy, and Trish Loughran.


Seminar Sessions

April 3, Radhika Govindrajan & Susan Koshy
April 10, Jodi Byrd & Trish Loughran
April 17, Jodi Byrd & Samantha Frost
All seminars take place on Fridays from 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Asian American Cultural Center Lounge, 1210 W Nevada Street

Unit Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English), "The Beast of America: Sovereignty and the Anarchy of Objects"
Introduction by Trish Loughran (English/History)
Response by Kevin Hamilton (New Media)
Monday, April 20, 4:00pm CT
Illini Union, 207

Close-reading texts including Irrational Games's 2013 Bioshock Infinite, this talk will consider how sovereignty enacts its juridical violence in the spaces between beast and human, savage and civilized. With the rise of object-oriented theory within videogame studies, questions about the structures of settler colonial governance persist in the spaces between representation and play. Engaging some of the recent conversations in queer theory and critical indigenous studies, this talk will offer insights into the nature of sovereignty and the discourses of colonialism that continue to be inflected by the presence of indigenous peoples.


Graduate Student Workshop

Friday, May 1, 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm CT
Asian American Cultural Center Lounge, 1210 W Nevada Street


Interrogating the Nonhuman poster