Winter 2020/21
Rehearsing Nonhuman Perspectives

What if we addressed the Anthropocene as a problem of communication and an issue of mutual understanding? Could it help to actively translate the wants, needs and experiences of non-humans into human language? Following the question of how to give a voice to plants, animals, fungi, places or whole landscapes, we read speculative fiction and theory that deals with sentient bamboo, tentacular protagonists and spidery narrators as well as gorillas that use sign language and the linguistics of eggplant.

Well aware that we can never fully understand or accomplish a non-human speech act, we rehearse conversations with non-humans with the help of fictional narratives and artistic forms. We discuss what kinds of approximations to such a conversation could help us to understand the Anthropocene; the current situation of mass extinction and environmental destruction. We enter the cringy territories of anthropomorphism, we revive ecofeminist discussions of making kin with animals. We ask, how we can speak up for non-humans without speaking for (instead of) them. What would a „speaking nearby“ (Trinh T. Minh-ha) non-humans look like? How not to erase their „significant otherness“ (Donna Haraway) in the translation? How to take the other’s “point of view compassionately, but without pretending to be the other” (Rosi Braidotti et al)?

We will meet bi-weekly and discuss these questions by reference to a heterogenous list of images, texts, film and audio documents that I’ll provide at the beginning of the semester and that we will extend together in the course of the seminar. Together in class, we will do close readings of short essays and theory chapters/quotes. Furthermore, each participant will read one speculative fiction that includes or deals with non-human narration and discuss it in class. As final project/paper, I want you to reflect on one aspect we have discussed in the framework of the seminar and write a short text (essay, short story, description of an artwork).

In case, we are not able to meet, because of another lockdown, I will provide reading materials and inputs in podcast format, we will meet live at least 3 times per Zoom and furthermore find ways of asynchronous exchange; writing together in on a shared etherpad and exchange short texts, ideas and images.

more Info at the Base Angewandte


Image credit: Leon Höllhumer, Pilzweihe