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ASCA WORKSHOP 2023 – Organized by Nadica Denić, Jasmijn Leeuwenkamp, and Eszter Szakács | June 28 – 30, 2023

The annual ASCA workshop will take place this year from 28-30 June, where 70+ participants will share their research in relation to the conference theme Forms of (More Than) Human Relationality. Everyone is welcome to join: the conference is open to the public and no registration is necessary to attend the keynotes and panels. The full program is available below. 

Three fantastic keynote speakers will join us:  

Kathrin Thiele (Utrecht University): Relation(al) Matters: On Questions of Subjectivity, Agency and the Demand To Rewrite Knowledge (June 28, 9.30-10.45 at Doelenzaal, UB Singel) 

Keynote 1 (Kathrin Tiele)

Patricia MacCormack (ARU Cambridge): Death Activism and Animal Abolitionist Direct Action (June 29,  11:00-12:30, UT Theater)  

Keynote 2 (Patricia MacCormack)

Pooja Rangan (Amherst College): Listening Like an Abolitionist: Documentary Relationality Beyond the Prison (June 30, 15:30-17:00, UT Theater) 

Keynote 3 (Pooja Rangan)

We are also excited to announce a film screening with Marwa Arsanios, Who is Afraid of ideology? Part IV – Reverse Shot (2022), and Ana Bravo Pérez, Mother Earth’s Inner Organs (2022) (June 28, 18.00-19.30 at Framer Framed).

Keynote Lectures

Keynote lecture by Kathrin Tiele (Utrecht University)

Relation(al) Matters: On Questions of Subjectivity, Agency and the Demand to Rewrite Knowledge

June 28, 9.30-10.45 at Doelenzaal, UB Singel

Respondent: Monique Roelofs (University of Amsterdam)

What characterizes today’s planetary condition if not relationality? My talk wants to open thinking about forms of (more than) human relationality via this speculative question. Yet, my goal is not to philosophically prove – against dualistic traditions – that it is the relation(al) which makes and unmakes worlds. Rather, what if we always/already situate ourselves with/ in a relational perspective and begin to trace how and in what senses the relation(al) matters? Three dimensions are explored more closely in my long-term engagement with relationality as onto-epistemological praxis: subject(ive), ecological, and systemic relations. While all three have to be seen as inherently connected with each other, in my talk I want to disentangle them for the purpose of explicating more pedagogically what consequences I see to follow from a relational approach regarding conceptualizations of subjectivity, more- than-human agencies and the systemic state of what Sylvia Wynter has called ‘the coloniality of Being’ (Wynter 2003). Concretely, I think alongside Bracha L. Ettinger’s matrixial theorizing or subjectivity, the onto-epistemology of intra-activity and/as entanglement of Karen Barad and Vicki Kirby, and the autopoietic systemicity of the coloniality of Being, or the world ‘as we know it,’ with Denise Ferreira da Silva and Wynter. What I hope to achieve with my talk is to open the relational both as a way out of dualism, individualism, and progressive-linear models, and as a methodological lens (or theory-practice) for the continually required critical analyses of human-and-more-than-human relational matters.

Kathrin Thiele is currently Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Critical Theory in the Graduate Gender Programme in the Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University, NL. Trained transdisciplinarily in Gender Studies, Sociology, Comparative Literature and Cultural Theory, her published work engages with questions of critical inquiry, ethics and politics from queer feminist, decolonial and posthuman(ist) philosophical perspectives. Her critical attention lies most of all with the promising and troubling consequences of a relational view on the world, that is thinking with the relational in order to attend to the inherent frictions, the processes of in/exclusion and the always asymmetrical relations we inhabit. With Birgit M. Kaiser she is also co-founder and coordinator of Terra Critica: Interdisciplinary Network for the Critical Humanities since 2012, and together with Ida Hillerup-Hansen, Kathrin Thiele has initiated the Relational Matters Archive in 2021, a series of online conversations that collects plurivocal insights on how relationality as a matter of concern can help us attune to the specificity of today's planetary condition.

Keynote lecture by Patricia MacCormack (ARU Cambridge)

Death Activism and Animal Abolitionist Direct Action

June 29,  11:00-12:30, University Theater

Respondent: Patricia Pisters (University of Amsterdam)

The anthropocentric war against aging, disease and death has left billions of unnecessary ‘sacrificial’ nonhuman victims in its wake, just as the profit of animal exploitation and consumption has become a new god of ‘wellness’, ‘health’ or nutrition. Activism as love does not know its fate. We ride the turbulent clinamen of need, we adapt science used for exploitation into that of ecological nurturing, we place ourselves as or in front of the victim to ward off the spectre of the gods rising again. Critically we disprove through activism as love the perceived fated inevitability and ‘necessity’ of nonhuman animal exploitation and death. The dialectic structure which underpins anthropocentric animal exploitation insinuates ‘this is their fate as animals’. Foedera Naturae transforms the dialectic to chaos, their to our, and fate to love. Death is the only inevitable, Thanatos the god of nonviolent death, a minor deity, a quiet ending not to be defeated as death is a simple part of nature. Lament remains an integral part of activism. It is often the initial catalyst for the conversion from war to love in relations with nonhuman animals. How can the creative act of lament as activism jam capitalism, how can love jam capital desiring machines and end the end of the world? 

Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge. She has published extensively on philosophy, feminism, queer and monster theory, animal abolitionist activism, ethics, art, occultism, and horror cinema. She is the author of Cinesexuality (Routledge 2008) and Posthuman Ethics (Routledge 2012) and the editor of The Animal Catalyst (Bloomsbury 2014), Deleuze and the Animal (EUP 2017), Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema (Continuum 2008) and Ecosophical Aesthetics (Bloomsbury 2018). Her newest book is The Ahuman Manifesto: Activisms for the End of the Anthropocene. She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow researching and developing Death Activism. 

Keynote lecture by Pooja Rangan (Amherst College)

Listening Like an Abolitionist: Documentary Relationality Beyond the Prison

Respondent: Toni Pape (University of Amsterdam)

June 30, 15:30-17:00, University  Theater

Listening to testimonial claims in pursuit of oppressed truths is commonly understood as the highest ethical responsibility of justice-seeking documentary publics. My talk examines the formation of this consensus, as well as the carceral relationships that underpin the jurification of documentary audiences as adjudicators of state and corporate crimes. What happens, I ask, when documentary listening reifies the prison in our political and relational landscape—and what might it mean to approach it as a site of abolitionist struggle? I parse the tensions between these two listening modes (listening like a cop, listening like an abolitionist) in a prevailing model of documentary accountability that involves appropriating the forms of authority associated with forensic truth-claims to present “counterforensic” evidence of state and environmental violence in a range of legal and public forums. I focus on a collaboration between research agency Forensic Architecture and Chicago-based activist media organization The Invisible Institute in response to a racially motivated killing by Chicago police. My reading of The Killing of Harith Augustus pays attention to how this project surfaces its own internal tensions, doubling as a tribunal on the anti-Black violence of juridical listening and an experiment in cultivating an outlaw listenership of neighborly care.    

Pooja Rangan is a scholar of documentary media based in Amherst College, where she is Associate Professor of English and Chair of Film and Media Studies. Rangan is the author of Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary (Duke UP 2017, winner of the Harry Levin Best First Book prize from the American Comparative Literature Association), which explores how fantasies of humanity and alterity fuel participatory documentary interventions, and particularly their investments in the rhetoric of immediacy. Rangan is also co-editor of the new print and open access anthology, Thinking with an Accent: Toward a New Object, Method, and Practice (UC Press, 2023), as well as numerous journal articles and essays on topics such as disability and access aesthetics, accent as crip epistemology, forensic listening, and true crime and abolition (available on Her new book-in-progress, The Documentary Audit, explores the equation of listening, in documentary discourse, with accountability, asking how accented, crip, and abolitionist listening practices question documentary values such as neutrality, access, and justice.  

Workshop Theme

The rejection of traditional forms of dualistic thinking has led to a turn to relationality in the humanities, giving rise to new ontologies that move beyond the subject-object distinction (e.g.: Haraway; Tsing; Barad; Latour; Braidotti; Morton). Critical scholars and artists have emphasized relationality as an alternative way to reconceptualize and visualize various forms of connectedness to the world and to (more than) human forms of life. However, “relationality”, as Judith Butler has recently reminded us in The Force of Non-violence, “is not by itself a good thing, a sign of connectedness, an ethical norm to be posited over and against destruction: rather, relationality is a vexed and ambivalent field in which the question of ethical obligation has to be worked out in light of a persistent and constitutive destructive potential.” An investment in different forms of relationality, be they artistic, social, or ecological in nature, is not an end in itself – it can, as some have argued, even reinforce the hegemonic and exclusionary concept of the human (Rangan). Many valuable perspectives emerged as responses to the call for ethico-political examination of relationality, and they have explored non-violence, willfulness, care, wholeness, opacity, and ambiguity in light of relationality, to name a few (Butler; Puig de la Bellacasa; Moiloa; Glissant; Fuery). Keeping in mind these perspectives, we might ask: How can we evaluate the potential of ethico-political accounts grounded in relational ontologies or frameworks? This ASCA workshop encourages participants to explore the broader theme of “relationality” as an aesthetic, ethical or political response to the present moment defined by multiple forms of precarity. Accordingly, we invite participants to attend to both the destructive and sustainable relationalities lived and imagined among (more than) human forms of life. Our aim is to encourage relational thinking that expands critical, artistic, and political horizons and provides a more complex account of the constitutive inter- and intra-relationality that binds things, humans, and non-humans to the world and to each other.