Please consider submitting an abstract for consideration to the proposed
special session panel at the MLA conference in Toronto.

Modern Language Association Convention

Toronto, ON, Canada (January 7–10, 2021)

Special session

*In/humanness in the 21st century: existence, relationality, and precarity*

Throughout the past decade, a variety of critical race, queer, disability,
and animal studies scholars such as Mel Y. Chen, Eunjung Kim, Dana Luciano,
Jasbir K. Puar, and Dinesh Wadiwel have grappled with questions of what
constitutes default forms of humanness, how these are upheld and by whom,
as well as whether humanity has a future. Indeed, such inquiries have
closely linked humanness to productivity, autonomy, and the ability to
manifest normative bodily features and identity markers to foster a deeper
understanding of how, in certain contexts, one’s objectification as
disposable, replaceable, and unworthy of care can register in a way that is
not exploitative and destructive. Inspired by Eunjung Kim’s essay in the
2015 special issue of *GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies* and its
focus on the questions of what it means to be human and how the category
itself inscribes sets of capacities and characteristics that render only
certain bodies valuable, this panel seeks to explore notions of un/becoming
human or inhuman and their relatedness to social and cultural power

In the vein of interrogating in/humanness, we intend to consider if and how
we are able to persist against the demand for productivity and forge
connections at a time when our world is shaped by “the blows of our
aggressive need for the world to accommodate us and our resistance to
adaptation,”[2] a world that nonetheless holds out the potential for
something other than a cruelly optimistic vision of a future. How might
becoming in/human allow us to exist and explore forms of sociality and
kinship through theoretical, literary, filmic, and artistic approaches that
resist the ongoing precariticization of bodies and a demand for agency,
sovereignty, and productivity rendered legible through a (homo or
hetero)normative, cis, able-bodied, white, middle class, consumer citizen
subject? Can different textual and contextual figurations challenge the
status of humanity as a locus of sovereignty and power, open possibilities
for/imaginations of being in the world, and underscore the limitations of
notions of agency and ability?

We seek approaches to notions of in/humanness across media, cultural
traditions, and historical periods as they engage critical race, queer,
disability, and animal studies to interrogate the possibility of objecthood
and inhumanness as an antisocial mode that underscores a refusal to become
what society demands.

Topics may include but are not limited to the following:

- processes of othering

- ontological reimaginings

- objectification and dehumanization

- agency and sovereignty

- passivity

- non/belonging

- kinship and sociality

- proximity and copresence

- relationality with land and locatedness

- (forced) migration

- climate change and its effects

Please submit 350-word abstracts and short presenter's biographies to
Carrie Smith ([log in to unmask]) and Simone Pfleger (
[log in to unmask]) by March 25, 2020. If your proposal is accepted, you
must be an MLA member by April 7, 2020. You may only have two roles at the


[1] Kim, Eunjung. “Unbecoming Human: An Ethics of Objects.” *GLQ: A Journal
of Lesbian and Gay Studies *21, no. 3–4 (2015).

[2]  Berlant, Lauren. “The Commons: Infrastructures for Troubling
Times,” *Environment
and Planning D: Society and Space* 24, no. 3 (2016): 414.

Dr. Simone Pfleger | she/her/hers
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Women’s and Gender Studies
University of Alberta
1-02B Assiniboia Hall | Edmonton, AB T6G 2E7

VP Finance – Postdoctoral Fellows Association
Research Associate – Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European

The University of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located in
ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ (Amiskwacîwâskahikan) on Treaty 6 territory, traditional lands
of First Nations and Métis people.

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