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HCTS Interactive Lecture Series: "Imagining Post-human Art History: Defining an Ecological Approach"

Oct 31, 2018 09:30 am to 12:30 pm
Organiser: Barbara Mittler (Sinologie); Philipp Stoellger (Systematische Theologie)

Speakers: Prof. Claire Farago (University of Colorado Boulder) & Prof. Donald Preziosi (University of California)

The lecture is part of the HCTS interactive lecture series "Recalibrating Culture – Reenvisioning the (Trans-)Cultural – C’est quoi la (trans-)culture?"


Imagining Post-human Art History: Defining an Ecological Approach

For all of its much-discussed shortcomings and mis-appropriations by the fossil fuel industry with geo-engineering solutions to the planetary ecological crisis, the term Anthropocene is useful because it unites climate change science and environmental studies with concerns of the arts and humanities. Our seminar is informed by efforts to bring the social and the biological together in a number of fields that are moving beyond the inherited dichotomy between nature and culture, to think in other terms besides the “obsolete language of innate universals and acquired traits,” to cite social anthropologist Tim Ingold’s call for a “sociobiological synthesis.” Ingold describes the ways in which humans and non-humans ordinarily come to know as a process of growth and discovery that encompasses the entire continuum of organic life. This reconceptualization of history is supported by genetic science based on the study of ancient DNA: current scientific models of identity are molecular and the upshot is that all creatures are interrelated, from ancient archaea on, and the development and spread of human and proto-human life on this planet is gradual, complex, and lateral – not the linear evolution that nineteenth-century science proposed, which unfortunately still provides the ontological basis of the modern humanistic disciplines. If there is no ontological division between the domains of the social and the biological – if both are twisted from multiple strands themselves twisted from multiple fibers, to cite Ingold, it also follows that there is dubious scientific basis for maintaining a fixed division between the human and the animal, and between human and animal culture. How do we conceive an art history for the future in the precarious times we find ourselves living, threatened by the possibility of nuclear annihilation and climate change catastrophes which are themselves drivers of the exponentially increasing xenophobia and fascism exacerbated by massive demographic changes, aka the burgeoning immigration crisis worldwide?

Can art history, history, archaeology, anthropology, philosophy, any humanistic discipline, interrupt the dual disasters of identitarian politics and willful ignorance of climate science, on a sound historical and theoretical basis? Taking up such fundamental issues through a post-disciplinary lens, we propose an ecological approach to a post-human history of art and/as world culture that is capacious enough to encompass new discoveries, that rejects current attempts to reinstate biological determinism.


Since this is an interactive format, and our goal is to practice reading-in-conjunction, readings for this talk, and a copy of the presentation, are available for your perusal here: https://heibox.uni-heidelberg.de/d/f247ad0054/.

Should any of the participants have materials from their own area of specialization or expertise that fit the topic at hand, they are welcome to bring them to the discussion. Please come prepared!

We are looking forward to seeing you!


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