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Death and Filiation in Times of Extinction

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Organizer: Maddalena Cerrato

Co-Organizer: Jaime Rodriguez-Matos

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Today we live in times of extinction. Thinking of extinction means thinking about the disappearance of our own and other species, but also about the destruction of our conditions of existence. The catastrophic horizon of our present has multiple interrelated dimensions: climate and environmental crises (natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, exhaustion of natural resources, inhabitable conditions- i.e. desertification, rise of sea levels, air pollution, toxic contamination…), Ai-related risks (replacement of jobs, misinformation, misaligned automated decisions, algorithmic governmentality, fully automated cyberwar…), pandemics, and nuclear wars. How does the anticipation of different forms of extinction change our way  of relating to the possibility of our death?  How does it change the relationship between death and filiation? Is there something like an existential/affective anticipation of extinction? 

This seminar seeks new ways to engage with the urgent task of thinking about the horizon of extinction and with its problematic relationship with death and filiation.  In the context of our discussion, we are using “death” as a rubric for different approaches to questions concerning finitude (mortality, being-toward-death, death drive, deathfulness, anti-natalism, ….) and “filiation” as rubric for conventional ways of dealing with the denial or sublimation of human finitude and death, as well as for a diverse range of thinking concerned with the future in terms of continuity and survival (kinship, life as self-reproduction, continuity, natality, cryonics, cyborg, clones, immortality …).   How can we approach the catastrophic horizon of the present otherwise than through the calculative framework serving either a survivalist or the venture capitalist perspective?  How do we think about the anticipation of extinction in emancipatory terms rather than as a call for obedience to the totalizing governmentalization of existence? How does such an horizon challenge the conventional ways of denying and sublimating our death and finitude through the continuity of filiation and kinship? In this context, how can we marshall the legacy of continental critical theories (deconstruction, psychoanalyses, feminisms, left–Heideggerianism, Marxism…) while avoiding a retreat into the mechanical repetition of the tradition?

We invite faculty, independent scholars, and graduate students from different areas of comparative literature, literary studies, Hispanism, critical theory, and continental philosophy to submit a proposal for presentations dealing with these and other related questions as part of a three-day open discussion. 


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