Guest editors: Barbara Creed (University of Melbourne) and Maarten Reesink (University of Amsterdam)
The relatively new and fast-growing field of human/animal studies explores questions about multispecies from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives – philosophy, psychology, law, literature, theatre, film, television, and new media. The human, it has been argued, has always defined itself as ‘human’ in contradistinction to the animal – doubtless the first ‘other’ of human society and culture. Screen and media studies have a great deal to offer to this ongoing debate. Animals, insects, in fact all species pose a new and complex area of research in relation to questions of image, the gaze, ethics, illusion, and spectrality.
As John Berger poses in his seminal essay ‘Why Look at Animals?’, one of the reasons for this attention may be that since the rise of the Industrial Revolution animals have literally vanished from our vision in the real world. Actual animals have been displaced by images of animals. In his book Electric Animal, Akira Lippit argues that the real animal has been replaced by a spectral animal. Other scholars have developed new concepts and approaches with which to think through what Derrida has described as the ‘massively unavoidable question’ of the animal. Various authors have explored this question in full-length studies including: Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis, Anat Pick’s Creaturely Poetics, Jussi Parikka’s Insect Media, Sebastian Vehlken’s Zootechnologies, and Tom Tyler’s Giferae.
A central focus and target for some of the best critical writing in the field is the concept of anthropocentrism – its centrality in philosophical discourse as well as its limitations. Animals and multispecies feature more and more in film, television, and new media, particularly in relation to mounting scientific evidence about the shared identities of human and non-human animals, climate change and the extinction of species, xenotransplantation, factory farming, and human indifference to the fate of animals. Images of animals or ‘artificial’ animals (as Berger calls them with disapproval) have clearly occupied a prominent role in the history of cinema (e.g. Chang: A Drama Of The Wilderness, Au Hasard Balthazar, Blood of the Beasts, King Kong) but possibly have never been more omnipresent than in contemporary media, appearing in various forms and across a range of genres from fiction (The Hunter) and documentary (March Of The Penguins, Black Fish, Project Nim) to computer-animated dramas (Finding Nemo) and television wildlife series. This new area of research has had far-reaching implications for the anthropocentric bias of philosophical discourse, the focus on the human gaze in screen theory, and human-centered values in anthropology and ethics, also considering the failure to re-think concepts such as anthropomorphism and traditions of animal and insect iconography in film and media.
The Spring 2015 special section of NECSUS will focus on the representation of multispecies in relation to media. For a growing amount of people worldwide mediated pictures often form the first images of (wild) animals, sometimes the only images, but nonetheless quite crucial images that heavily influence our ideas about and relationships with ‘non-human’ species. For instance, how have insects – their behaviours and forms of social organisation – impacted science and technology? We need to ask ourselves now more than ever: what kind of histories do we present on multispecies? Is our viewpoint always an anthropocentric one? What underlying discourses about them and us inform these stories and images? How do these discourses affect our relations towards the living creatures with whom we share nature and also culture? How do we live ethically alongside nonhuman species in the age of the Anthropocene?
Abstracts may relate but are not necessarily limited to the following:
* posthumanism and animal representation
* insect formations, networks, and media technologies
* wildlife documentaries
* animal death on screen
* speciesism, sexism, and the media
* the anthropocentric point of view
* swarm intelligence, human culture, and computer science
* narrativity and becoming animal
* anthropomorphism and animation
* animals and ethics
* screening the Anthropocene
* screening the animal within the human
* photography and species
* creaturely screens
We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 15 June 2014 at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the basis of selected abstracts writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (6000-8000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a blind peer review process.
NECSUS also accepts abstract submissions on a rolling basis throughout the year for a wide variety of articles on a number of themes related to media studies, in addition to proposals for the following types of reviews: festivals, exhibits, books. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration. Access our submission guidelines here.