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Slavic "Others": Inhuman, Nonhuman, Posthuman

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Organizer: Drago Momcilovic

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The “other” is a central conceit in both canonical and contemporary Slavic & East European literature and the arts. Archetypal characters like Tchaikovsky’s swans, Čapek’s robots, Tokarczuk’s long-living “fourth-person” narrator Yente, and Ugrešić’s reanimated Baba Yaga are all figures of abject otherness that unsettle the primacy of the figure of the human and unveil the different interactions and relationships that link the human being to other forms of creaturely life, other machineries and technologies of knowledge and power, and the non-human world in general.

On the one hand, Slavic & East European figurations of the nonhuman and posthuman “other” emerge in response to global concerns about and literary representations of the accretive violence of the Anthropocene, the unprecedented growth of digital and mobile technology and capital, and the unresolved philosophical question of the animal. On the other hand, Russian & East European literature takes up these concerns alongside the still-contentious and more increasingly volatile forms of inhuman “otherness”, that matrix of social, cultural, political, and historical pressures that shape, destabilize, disempower, dehumanize, or abject the figure of the human in larger narratives about the struggle over power, agency, space and visibility.

This seminar invites participants to explore the importance of the inhuman, nonhuman, or posthuman “other” as a formative concept in literary, artistic, or cultural expressions of selfhood and identity at the individual or collective level. Topics include but are not limited to the following:

the relation between the "other" and minoritarian cultures, the subaltern, or the abject;
socio-cultural inflections of "otherness", particularly through the lens of race, class, gender, and sexuality;
narratives focalized around environmental issues or amplifying the importance of animals, plants, or viruses;
familiar and unfamiliar modes of representing “otherness”, including trauma narratives, travel narratives, science fiction, Gothic, and Magical Realism; 
industries, technologies, and machineries of “otherness” that are implicated in histories of violence and dehumanization or the rise of the inhumanities;
the supernatural or folk “other” and its monstrous iterations;
the agency of material objects, elemental presences, and other nonhuman substrates; or
the Slavic "Other" in relation to monolithic categories like the East or West, the Global North or Global South.

Please feel free to email the seminar organizer, Drago Momcilovic, at for more information.

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