Inhumanities: Comparative Literature Conference, Feb 22-23, 2013 (UCLA)


The term inhumanity is most often evoked as a moral condemnation, marking and redeeming the human. In contemporary global politics,inhumanities are acts of violence and brutality expelled from humanity’s realm, demanding and justifying humanity’s intervention. And yet, the human/inhuman divide is itself marked by violence; a history of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, and war have shown how definitions of the human and of humanism, be they conceptual, juridical or aesthetic, have underlined and participated in brutal forms of dehumanization. Today, emergent technologies of necropolitics continue to render entire populations disposable. In scholarship of the past decades, anti-humanist deconstruction, manifest for example in Lyotard’s reclamation of the inhuman, has given way to post-humanist accounts of new forms of creative evolution, refusing to keep various species of organisms, technologies and matters apart, constructing new ontologies of ethical thinking beyond or apart from the human, and provoking the emergence of figures such as the cyborg, the homo sacer, the negated or affective subject, the planetary creature, ephemeral specters and vibrant matter, among others. Theory after the human often turns to biological and technological discourses, taking place conspicuously at the same moment as an institutional divestment of the Humanities. At this time of disciplinary transition, this conference seeks to question the political and aesthetic currencies of various theories of the inhuman. We wish to reflect on inhumanities as conceptual, figurative, temporal, geo-political, or juridical moments in which the human is marked as an absence, suspended or negated, and at the same time, to consider the human’s persistence and resistance to these operations.

Inhumanities Conference poster

Sponsored by the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature as well as the following UCLA organizations:

Campus Programs Committee
Dean of Humanities Discretionary Fund
School of Law
Department of French and Francophone Studies
Department of English
Department of History
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Graduate Students Association
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowships in the Humanities
G.E. Von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies
John Charles Hillis Chair of the Department of English
Postcolonial Theory & Literary Studies Colloquium
University of California Humanities Research Institute