Skip to Content

Embodied States: Conceptualizing Corporeality, Literature, and Visual Cultures in an Age of AI

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Lisa DeTora

Co-Organizer: Jodi Cressman

Contact the Seminar Organizers

This seminar considers embodied states in global literary and cultural forms as they may be understood in the age of AI, broadly conceived. We seek presentations that consider the stakes of AI in the context of prior racist, sexist, and ableist hierarchies and privilege, especially past histories and cultural forms that continue to require analysis and intervention. We consider the current age of AI as one that undercuts embodied realities and corporeality by creating alternative worlds in digital spaces, erasing past and present experiences and knowledge. However, current AI exists in a cultural and historical continuum that has been represented in prior fictional and nonfictional sources.

Donna Haraway first explained the arbitrary nature of the divisions between categories such as human, animal, and machine that were often treated as an inevitable result of essential and material differences. The subsequent rise of posthuman theories emphasized that the categorical divisions between embodied states are performative and imagined, embedded within a matrix of cultural concerns that normalize political and juridical privileges based on embodied states such as gender, sex, ability, or even literacy. Until relatively recently, the priority of studies and disciplines that seek to intervene in prior histories and practices of inequity seemed well-accepted.  However, more recent political turns have upended hard-fought gains, calling into question the essential rights and personhood of the majority of the world’s inhabitants.

The role and function of AI in reinforcing such inequities is relatively well known.  Employment algorithms routinely eliminate women and persons of color from applicant pools, facial recognition systems fail to register persons of color, and AIs normalize white men as earners.   These moves retroactively erase decades of progressive inquiry into various kinds of embodied states that our panel seeks to elevate.  How can scholars in the humanities and social sciences use their knowledge and skills to intervene in current systems of inequity and regain ground that is being lost?

We welcome essays and presentations that consider these questions in the light of literature and culture from any period or world region.  Essays might consider, but are not limited to:

  • How prior histories of technological innovation impact current understandings of embodied experiences and corporeality in literary and cultural sources

  • AIs in belletristic literary sources

  • Literary and cultural forms that combine different technologies—images, sounds, text, etc—to represent embodied states

  • Feminist and other critical approaches to speculative fictions that represent artificial intelligences, including Afrofuturism, African Futurism, or Techno-Orientalism

  • Past representations


«Back To Seminars