Biohumanities Continental Philosophy and the Human and Social Sciences

Spring 2011 - Wednesday 5.15-8.05 pm - bldg: 50-51B
Stanford University, FrenGen 338 – Anthro 338A - CREEES [3-5 units]

Ewa Domanska


This course will consider theoretical topics that arose in post-war continental philosophy (for example, Deleuze’s ontology, Foucault’s biopolitics, and Latour’s collective of humans and non-humans) which have served as a basis for recent attempts to reconcile the human and social sciences with the natural sciences around so-called “big picture questions” (ecological crisis, biotechnological progress) and around such bridging concepts as human and non-human agency, assemblage, emergence, force, habitus and mimicry as well as „bio-terms“ (biocitizenship, bioeconomy, biocapitalism and biosocial). Focusing on case studies drawn from archaeology, anthropology, history, literature, film and bio-art, the course will try to indicate what sort of topics, research questions, approaches, theories and concepts might lead to an integration of these various kinds of knowledges.



Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three meetings (except for illness or others serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. Each student will sign up to present a text relevant to the theme of the readings for that week. Class presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes. A 15 pages final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student himself/herself. It can draw upon work being done in other classes but must utilize the materials of this course as well. Grading: participation - 40%; class presentation - 20%; final paper - 40%.



1. Introduction: overview of the course

2. Posthumanism. The Triumph of Zoe?

  • Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press, 2010 (especially ix-126).
  • Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions. On Nomadic Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press 2006 (especially: 32-42 and 96-143).
  • Jeff Wallace, “Literature and Posthumanism.” Literature Compass, vol. 7/8, 2010: 692-701.
    • Andy Miah, “A Critical History of Posthumanism” and Dieter Birnbacher, “Posthumanity, Transhumanism and Human Nature,” in: Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity, ed. by Gordijn, R. Chadwick. Springer, 2008: 71-94 and 95-106.
    • Noel Castree, Catherine Nash [et all] "Mapping Posthumanism: An Exchange." Environment and Planning, vol. 36, 2004: 1341-1363.
    • Samuel Wilson and Nick Haslam, “Is the Future More or Less Human? Differing Views of Humanness in the Posthumanism Debate.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour , vol. 39, no. 2, 2009: 247-266.
    • Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future. Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution . New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
    • Paolo Palladino, “Life ... On Biology, Biography, and Bio-power in the Age of Genetic Engineering.” Configurations, vol. 11, 2008: 81-109.
    • Nicholas Agar, Life's Intrinsic Value - Science, Ethics and Nature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
    • Stanislaw Lem, On Human Minute, trans. by Catherine S. Leach. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986.
    • Peter Butko, „Summa technologiae – Looking Back and Ahaed,” in: The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem, ed. by Peter Swirski. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006: 81-103.

3. Biohumanities, Forensic Futures, and Posthuman Subjects

  • Karola Stotz, Paul E. Griffiths, “Biohumanities: Rethinking the Relationship Between Bioscience, Philosophy, and History of Science, and Sociaty.” The Quarterly of Biology, vol. 83, no.1, March 2008: 37-45.
  • Michael Dillon, Julian Reid, The Liberal Way of War. Killing to Make Life Live. Routledge 2009 (“From the Liberal Subject to the Biohuman” and “Biohumanity and Its Rouges: Secures the Infrastructuires of Liberal Living”).
  • Eyal Weizman, “Forensic Architecture. Only the Criminal Can Solve the Crime”. Radical Philosophy, no. 164, November/December 2010: 9-24.
    • Rosi Braidotti, Claire Colebrook and Patric Hanafin, “Introduction: Legal Theory After Deleuze,” in: Deleuze and Law Forensic Futures, ed. by Rosi Braidotti, Claire Colebrook and Patrick Hanafin. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009: 1-5.
    • Mark Colyvan, Stefan Linquist, William Grey, Paul E. Griffiths, Jay Odenbaugh, and Hugh P. Possingham, "Philosophical Issues in Ecology: Recent Trends and Future Directions.” Ecology and Society, vol. 14, no. 2, 2009:
    • S. Eben Kirksey, Stefan Helmriech, "On the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography." Current Anthropology, vol. 25., no. 4, November 2010: 545-576.

4. Biopolitics in the Age of Biocapitalism

  • Nicolas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself. Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton and Oxford. Princeton University Press, 2007: 1-105.
  • Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life , trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998 [“Introduction”:1-12; part III: “The Camp as Biopolitical Paradigm of the Modern”:119-180; “Treshold”: 181-188.]
  • Michel Foucault, “Lecture - 17 March 1976 ,” in his, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976, trans. David Macey. New York : Picador, 2003: 239-263.
    • María José Guerra, “Bioethics at Stake: The Challenge of Corporate Science and Biocapitalism.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 2, no. 1, Spring 2009: 52-58

5. Biocitizenship and Bioeconomy

  • Rose, The Politics of Life Itself (chapter 5 and 6): 131-186.
  • Dorothy Roberts, “Race and the New Biocitizen,” in: What's the Use of Race?: Modern Governance and the Biology of Difference, ed. by Ian Whitmarsh, David S. Jones. Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy, 2010: 259-276.
  • Kean Birch, “The Neoliberal Underpinnings of the Bioeconomy: the Ideological Discurses and Practices of Economic Competetiveness.” Genomics, Society and Policy, vol. 2, no. 3, 2006: 1-15.
    • Adriana Petryna, Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

6. Biosocial Relations? Flat Alternatives
guest participant: Ian Hodder

  • Ian Hodder, “Human-Thing Entanglement: Towards an Integrated Archaeological Perspective.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 17, 2010: 154-177.
  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 (“Introduction”, and „Conclusion”: 1-17 and 247-262).
  • Arturo Escobar, “The ‘Ontolgical Turn' in Social Theory.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographies, vol. 32, no. 1, 2007: 106-111.
  • David McNeill, “Art Without Authors: Networks, Assemblages and ‘Flat' Ontology.” Third Text, vol. 24, no. 2, 2010: 397-408.
    • Manuel DeLanda, “Deleuzian Social Ontology and Assemblage Theory”, in: Deleuze and the Social, ed. by Martin Fuglsang and Bent Meier Sørensen. Edinburgh Universty Press, 2006: 250-266.
    • Graham Harman, „DeLanda's Ontology: Assemblage and Realism”. Continental Philosophical Review, vol. 41, 2008.
    • Gisli Pálson, “Biosocial Relations of Production.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 51, no. 2, 2009: 288 – 313.
    • Gerard Delanty, "Constructivism, Sociology and the New Genetics.” New Genetics and Society, vol. 21, no. 3, 2002: 279-189.
    • Siegfried J. Schmidt, "The Empirical Study of Literature. Why and Why Not?", in: The Systematic and Empirical Approach to Literature and Culture as Theory and Appilication, ed. by Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Irene Sywenky. Alberta and Siegen: University of Alberta, 1997: 137-153.
    • Pattrice Jones, "Free As a Bird: Natural Anarchism in Action," in: Contemporary Anarchist Studies. An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy, ed. by Randal Amster (at all.]. London and New Yrk: Routledge, 2009: 236-246.
    • Petr Kropotkin, Mutual Aid. A Factor of Evolution, ed. by Paul Avrich. New York: New York University Press, 1972.

7. Bio-Agency and Non-Human Agencies

  • Owain Jones and Paul Cloke, “Non-Human Agencies: Trees in Place and Time”, in: Material Agency.Towards a Non-Anthropocentric Approach, ed. by Carl Knappett, Lambros Malafouris. Berlin: Springer, 2008: 79-96.
  • Bruno Latour, "Third Source of Uncertainty: Objects too Have Agency", in his, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005: 63-86..
  • Mark Peter Jones, “Posthuman Agency: Between Theoretical Traditions.” Sociological Theory, vol. 14, no. 3, November 1996: 290-309.
  • Katrín Anna Lund and Karl Benediktsson, „Inhabiting a Risky Earth. The Eyjafjallajökull Eruption in 2010 and Its Impacts.” Anthropology Today, vol. 27, no. 1, February 2011: 6-9.
    • Tim Edensor, "Entangled Agencies, Material Networks and Repair in a Building Assamblage: The Mutable Stone of St Ann's Church, Manchester." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 36, no. 2, 2011: 238-252.
    • J. C. Skewes, C. A. Hooker, “Bio-Agency and the Problem of Action”. Biology and Philosophy, vol. 24, no. 3, 2009: 283-300.

8. Biomimicry, Mimetic Faculty and Mimetic Theory
guest participant:
Jean-Pierre Dupuy

  • Jean-Pierre Dupuy, "Naturalizing Mimetic Theory" (manuscript)
  • Rene Girard and Girard's mimetic theory
  • Scott R. Garrels, "Imitation, Mirror Neurons, and Mimetic Desire: Convergence Between the Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard and Empirical Research on Imitatin". Contagion. Journal of Violence, Mimesis and Culture, no. 12-13, 2005-2006: 47-86.
  • Roger Caillois, „Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia”, trans. by John Shepley. October, vol. 31, Winter 1984.
  • Homi Bhabha, „Of Mimicry and Man. The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”, in his, The Location of Culture. London, New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Jacques Lacan, „The Line and Light”, in his, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, book XI, trans. by Alan Sheridan. New York and London: Norton, 1998.
    • James Ferguson, "Of Mimicry and Membership. Africans and the 'New World Society '." Cultural Anthropology, vol. 17, no. 4, 2002: 551-569.
    • René Girard, Mimesis and Theory. Essays on Literature and Criticism, 1953-2005, edited and with an Introduction by Robert Doran. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
    • Pierpaolo Antonello and Paul Gifford, “From Animal to Human: What Mimetic Theory Brings to the Understanding of Cultural Evolution” (manuscript).
    • Henri Atlan, “Biological and Cultural Evolution. Relevance of Girard's Mimetic Theory” (manuscript)
    • Blair Ogden, „Benjamin, Wittgenstein, and Philosophical Anthropology: A Reevaluation of the Mimetic Faculty”. Grey Room, no. 39, Spring 2010: 56–73.

9. Bio-art
guest participant: Laura Splan

  • Stephen Wilson, Art + Science Now. Thames & Hudson, 2010: 6-83.
  • Signs of Life. Bio Art and Beyond, ed. by Eduardo Kac. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007: 1-24 and 163-311.

10. Ethics Future-Friendly: A Virtue Oriented Alternative and Critical Hope

  • John Greco, „Virtue Epistemology.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Vincent Crapanzano, „Reflections on Hope as a Category of Social and Psychological Analysis”. Cultural Anthropology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2003: 3-32.
  • Richard Mcneil Douglas, „The Ultimate Paradigm Shift. Environmentalism as Antithesis to the Modern Paradigm of Progress” and Sarah S. Amsler, „Bringing Hope to Crisis'. Crisis Thinking, Ethical Action and Social Change”, in: Future Ethics. Climate Change and Apocaliptic Imagination, ed. by Stefan Skrimshire. New York-London: Continuum, 2010: 107-215 and 129-152.
  • Rebecca Coleman and Debra Ferreday, “Introduction: Hope and Feminist Theory.” Journal for Cultural Research, vol. 14, no. 4, October 2010: 313-322.
    • Ronald L. Sandler, Character and Environment. A Virtue-Oriented Approach to Environmental Ethics . Columbia University Press 2007.
    • Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope. Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.

©ed 2011