What is a human? Who is a human? What does it mean to be human? The answers to these questions, once thought of as fairly simple, are becoming more complicated.
That is the core message of this year’s Humanities on the Edge lecture series – the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s premier lecture series for theoretical research in the humanities. This year’s theme, “Posthuman Futures,” will tackle questions surrounding what it means to be human and how that has changed through time.
The series kicks off Sept. 17 with Debra Hawhee, professor of English and communication arts at Penn State University, presenting “Aristotle and Animal Feeling.” The lecture is slated for 5:30 p.m. in the Sheldon Museum of Art, 12th and R streets.
Posthumanism is a fairly new field of research emerging in the humanities, Damien Pfister, assistant professor of communication studies, said. Pfister is spearheading this year’s series.
“This notion of posthumanism problematizes one of our most taken-for-granted categories: the category of the human,” Pfister said. “We used to think we knew what a human is, but really we just had this kind of inflated perception of humans’ role in the universe.
“Posthumanism helps us destabilize this idea of the human, to see how the idea of the human is itself always in flux. We’re hoping that this speaker series brings some of these broader theoretical currents into closer conversation with UNL scholars who are working in these or closely-related areas.”
Pfister said posthumanism is made up of three strands of cutting-edge humanities research: critical animal studies, cultural theory, and technology studies. This year’s series has speakers on each of the areas, and for the first time includes an artist’s take on humanities research, thanks to a deepening collaboration with the Sheldon Museum of Art.
“I think we have dynamic speakers who are very accessible to a wide audience, “ Pfister said. “These are people who are leaders in these interdisciplinary research areas.”
For more information on the series, go to https://www.facebook.com/humanitiesontheedge All lectures will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Sheldon Museum of Art, and are free and open to the public. The lineup is as follows:
Oct. 29, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, assistant professor of English at George Mason University, “The Blackness of Space Between Matter and Meaning.”
March 3, Saya Woolfalk, independent artist, “World Builder.”
March 31, John Durham Peters, A. Craig Baird Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, “Do Clouds Have Meaning? On the Relation Between Media and Nature.”
Now in its sixth year, the series began as a way to form and promote an intellectual community on campus across disciplinary lines. It was co-founded by Marco Abel, professor and chair of the English department and Roland Végsö, Associate Professor of English. They are joined by committee members Pfister and Jeannette Eileen Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies, as well as Jonathan Walz, curator of American art at the Sheldon Museum of Art.