Introduction to Multispecies Theory
in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Andrzej Fasiecki, Multispecies Planet, 2012

Spring 2012 - Wednesday 5:15-8:05 pm - bldg: 50-51B
Stanford University, FrenGen 334 – Anthro 334A - CREEES [3-5 units]

Ewa Domanska


This course will discuss works that challenge traditional ways of defining the boundary between the human and the non-human and inspire fundamental reconsideration of issues such as subjectivity, difference, otherness, agency, essence, substance, sociality, rights and life itself. The course will focus on such problems as: posthumanism and the emergence of non-anthropocentric human and social sciences, “multispecisim” in the re-rethinking of disciplines (for example multispecies ethnography), redefinition of the concept of life in the human and social sciences by including non-human subjects, animals and plants as others, rethinking the category of the social as a collective of humans and non-humans, nonintentional agency (as well as our understanding of vitalism, animism and totemism), multispecies art and living organisms as media in art (bio-art), ethics of compassion and the problem of the dignity of the non-human (including recent interest in the dignity of plants). The problem of the current “paradigmatic gap” and shifts in dominant interpretative frameworks (from poststructuralist-representational to posthumanist) as well as a growing interest in so-called “flat alternatives” (new empiricism, new materialism, relational ontology) will also be discussed. This course may be of interest to anthropology, MLT and literature students working in the fields of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities broadly considered.

Readings will include: Giorgio Agamben, Rosi Braidotti, J. M. Coetzee, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Cary Wolfe as well as film screening of “ Rabbit à la Berlin ” (2009) dir. Bartek Konopka [ CREEES film series].



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%.



April 4
1. Introduction: overview of the course

Tuesday, April 10th, 7 pm, Cubberly Auditorium
The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall – An Animal Perspective

Rabbit a la Berlin”, dir. Bartek Konopka [CREEES film series]
(film screening and a discussion with Bartek Konopka)

2. The Posthuman Turn. Toward a Non-Anthropocentric Human and Social Sciences
special guest: Bartek Konopka

  • Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism ? University of Minnesota Press, 2010 (especially: ix-47).
  • 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.
  • Lucinda Cole, Donno Landry, Bruce Boeher and others, “Specisism, Identity Politics, and Ecocroticism: A Conversation with Humanists and Posthumanists.” The Eighteenth Century , vol. 52, no. 1, 2011: 87-106.
    • Ursula K. Heise, “The Posthuman Turn: Rewriting Species in Recent American Literature.” The Blackwell Companion to American Literature, ed. by Robert Levine and Caroline Levander. Oxford : Blackwell, 2011: 454-468.
    • Critical Posthumanism, ed. by Simon, Bart, Jill Didur and Teresa Heffernan. Special issue of Cultural Critique 53, 2003.
    • Gilles Deleuze, “Literature and Life”, trans. by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Critical Inquiry , vol. 23, no. 2, Winter 1997: 225-230.

3. Species Turn / Animal Turn – Multispecies Humanities

  • S. Eben Kirksey, Stefan Helmriech, "On the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography." Current Anthropology, vol. 25, no. 4, November 2010: 545-576 [special issue on “On the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography”]
  • Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press, 2010 (especially: 49-142).
  • Kari Weil, „A Report on the Animal Turn”. differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, vol. 21, no. 2: 1-23.
  • Michael Lundblad, “From Animal to Animality Studies.” PMLA, vol. 124, no. 2, 2009: 496-502 [special section of PMLA devoted to animal studies]
  • Neel Ahuja, “Postcolonial Critique in a Multispecies World.” PMLA, vol. 124, no. 2, 2009: 556-563.
  • G.A. Bradshaw, ”An Ape Among Many: Co-Authorship and Trans-species Episte m ic Authority.” Configurations, vol. 18, 2019: 13-50.
  • Maria Carlson, “Furry Cartography: Performing Species”. Theatre Journal, vol. 63, 2011:191-208.
    • Richard D. Ryder, Animal Revolution. Changing Attitudes Toward Specisism. Oxford: Berg, 2010..
    • Giorgio Agamben, The Open. Man and Animal, trans. by Kevin Attell. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004 (chapters: &4 “Misterium disiunctionis”, &9: Anthropolgical Machine; &17: “Anthropogenesis”):13-16; 33-38; 79-80.
    • Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, “Becoming Animal,” in The Animals Reader: The Essential Classical and Contemporary Writings, ed. by Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2007: 37-50.
    • Martin Puchner, “Performing the Open. Actors, Animals and Philosophers”. TDR: The Drama Review, vol. 51, no. 1, Spring 2007: 21-32.
    • 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.
    • J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello. New York: Penguin, 2003.
    • Agustin Fuentes, “The Humanity of Animals and the Animality of Humans: A View from Biological Anthropology inspired by J. M. Coettzee's Elizabeth Costello. ”American Anthropologist, vol. 108, no. 1, March 2006: 124-132.
    • Animal studies – bibliography / H-Net Animal

4. Rethinking Essence, Substance and Organicism

  • Stephan C. Pepper, World Hypotheses. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1942: 280-316.
  • Charles T. Wolfe, “Do Organisms Have an Ontological Status?” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, vol. 32, no. 2-3, 2010: 195-231.
  • Amber Benezra, Joseph DeStefano, and Jeffrey I. Gordon, “Anthropology of Microbes.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , vol. 109, no. 17, 24 April 2012 : 6378 – 6381.
  • Angelique Richardson, “Introduction: Essentialism in Science and Culture.” Critical Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, 2011: 1-11. [special issue on “Essentialism in Science and Culture”]
  • Janet Carsten, “Susbstance and Relationality: Blood in Contexts”. Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 40, 2011: 19-35.
  • Hans Peter Hahn, Jeans Soentgen, “Acknowledging Substances Looking at the Hidden Side of the Material World.” Philosophy and Technology, vol. 24, 2010: 19-31.
    • Staffan Müller-Wille, “Making Sense of Essentialism.” Critical Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, 2011: 61-77.
    • Denise Gigante, “Introduction”, in her, Life. Organic Form and Romanticism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009: 1-48.

5. New Materialism, New Vitalism

  • Inventive Life: Approaches to the New Vitalism, ed. by Celia Lury, Sarah Kember, Mariam Fraser. London: Sage 2006.
  • Diana Coole and Samantha Frost, "Introducing New Materialisms,", in New Materialisms. Ontology, Agency, and Politics, ed. by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost. Durham and London : Duke University Press, 2010: 1-43.
  • Iris van der Tuin & Rick Dolphijn, “The Transversality of New Materialism”. Women. A Cultural Review, vol. 21, no. 2, 2010: 153-171.
    • Isabelle Stengers, “Wondering about Materialism,” in : The Speculative Turn. Continental Materialism and Realism, ed. by Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman. Melbourne: re-press, 2011 (also: Manuel DeLanda, “Emergence, Causality and Realism”): 369-380 and 381-392.
    • Rosi Braidotti, “Feminist Epistemology After Postmodernism: Critiquing Science, Technology and Globalisation.” Interdisciplinary Sciences Reviews , vol. 22, no. 1, 2007: 65-74.
6. Dignity of Plants
Special guest: Anna Tsing
  • Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology [ECNH], The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants. Moral Considerations of Plants For Their Own Sake , 2008. [plus discussion: Simcha Lev-Yadun, “Bioethics. On the Road to Absurd Land .” Plant Signaling & Behavior , vol. 3, no. 8, August 2008: 612-612; Florianne Koechlin, “The Dignity of Plants.” Plant Signaling & Behavior , vol. 4, no. 1, January 2009: 78-79.]
  • Matthew Hall, “Plant Autonomy and Human-Plant Ethics.” Environmental Ethics, vol. 31, Summer 2009: 169-181.
  • Anna Tsing, “Arts of Inclusion, or, How to Love a Mushroom.” Australian Humanities Review, vol. 50, 2011 (also Deborah Bird Rose and Thom van Dooren, “Introduction”. Special issue of AHR on: Unloved Others Death of the Disregarded in the Time of Extinctions).
  • Anna Tsing, “More-than-Human Sociality: A Call For Critical Description,” in: Nature/Society, ed. by Kirsten Hastrup (in print).
  • Michael Marder, “Vegetal Anti-Metaphysics: Learning From Plants.” Continental Philosophical Review , vol. 44, 2011: 469-489.
    • John Charles Ryan, “Anthoethnography: Emerging Research into the Culturef Flora, Aesthetic Experience if Plants and the Wildflower Tourism of the Future.” New Scholar, vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 2011: 28-40.
    • John Charles Ryan, “Cultural Botany: Towards a Model of Transdisciplinary, Embodied and Poetic Research into Plants.” Nature and Culture, vol. 6, no. 2, 2011: 123-148.
    • John Charles Ryan,“Plants That Perform For You'? From Floral Aesthetics to Floraesthesis in the Southwest of Western Australia .” Australian Humanities Review, no. 47, November 2009.
    • Matthew Hall, Plants as Persons. A Philosophical Botany . Sunny Press, 2011.

7. Non-Human / Posthuman Agency

  • 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.
  • Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things. Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter.” Political Theory , vol. 32, no. 3, January 2004: 347-372.
  • Ian Hodder, “Human-Thing Entanglement: Towards an Integrated Archaeological Perspective.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 17, 2010: 154-177.
  • Mark Peter Jones, “Posthuman Agency: Between Theoretical Traditions.” Sociological Theory , vol. 14, no. 3, November 1996: 290-309.
  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory . Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2005 (“Introduction”, and „Conclusion”: 1-17 and 247-262).
    • Richard C. Foltz, „Does Nature Have Historical Agency? World History, Environmental History, and How Historians Can Help Save the Planet”?” The History Teacher , vol. 37, no. 1, November 2003: 9-28.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Gisli Pálson, “Biosocial Relations of Production.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 51, no. 2, 2009: 288–313.
    • Dan Rose, “The Repatriation of Anthropology.” American Literary History, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring 1996: 170-183.

8. Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Animism and Totemism

  • Raymond Pierotti, Daniel Wildcat, „Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Third Alternative (Commentary)”. Ecological Applications, vol. 10, no. 5, October 2000:
  • Enrique Salmon, “Kincentric Ecology: Indigenous Perceptions of the Hu m an-Nature Relationship”. Ecological Applications, vol. 10, no. 5, 2000: 1327-1332.
  • Val Plumwod, “Nature in the Active Voice.” Australian Humanities Review, no. 46, May 2009: 113-129.
  • Roy C. Dudgeon and Fikret Berkes, “Local Understanding of the Land: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Indigenous Knowledge”, in: Nature Across Cultures: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures, ed. by H. Selin. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003: 75-96.
  • Graham Harvey, Animism. Respecting the Living World . New York : Colu m bia University Press, 2006.
    ---, “Animals. Animists, and Academics”. Zygon, vol. 41, no. 1, March 2006: 9-19.
  • Nurit Bird-David, “‘Animism' Revisited: Personhood, Environ m ent, and Relational Epistemology.” Current Anthropology, vol. 40, February 1999: 567-591.
  • Harry Garuba, “Explorations in Animist Materialism: Notes on Reading/Writing African Literature, Culture, and Society.” Public Culture, vol. 15, no. 2, Spring 2003: 261-285.
  • Philippe Descola, “Human Natures”. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, vol. 17, no. 2, 2009: 145–157.
    • Robym Eckersley, “The Death of Nature and the Birth of the Ecological Humanities”. Organization Environment, vol. 11, no. 2, June 1998: 183-185.
    • Deborah Bird Rose and Libby Robin, “The Ecological Humanities in Action: An Invitation.” Australian Humanities Review, no. 31-32, April 2004.
    • Benjamin S. Orlove, “Ecological Anthropology”. Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 9, 1980: 235-273.
    • 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 York : Routledge, 2009: 236-246.
    • Matthew Hall, “Beyond the Human: Extending Ecological Anarchism.” Environmental Politics , vol. 20, no. 3, May 2011: 374-390.
    • Orin Starn, “Here Come the Anthros (Again): The Strange Marriage of Anthropology and Native America ”. Cultural Anthropology, vol. 26, no. 2, 2011: 179-204.
9 . Metacommunity: From Society to Collective of the Humans and Non-Humans
special guest: Ursula K. Heise  
  • Ursula K. Heise, “Lost Dogs, Last Birds, and Listed Species: Cultures of Extinction.” Configurations, vol. 18, 2010: 49-72.
    ---, “The Android and the Animal.” PMLA, vol. 124, no. 2, 2009: 503-510.
  • Bruno Latour, “A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans. Following Daedalus's Labirynth”, in his, Pandora's Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies . Cambridge Mass. ; London : Harvard University Press, 1999: 174-215.
  • Bruno Latour, “How to Bring the Collective Together”, in his, Politics of Nature. How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004: 53-90.
  • Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto. Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003.
    • Bruno Latour, „Do Scientific Objects Have a History? Pasteur and Whitehead in a Bath of Lactic Acid”. Common Knowledge, vol. 5, no 1, 1993: 76-91.Donna J. Haraway, “Introduction: When Species Meet,” in her When Species Meet. Minneapolis, London : University of Minnesota Press, 2008: 3-42.Bryan L. Brown, Christopher M. Swan et all, „Metacommunity Theory as a Multispecies, Multiscale Framework for Studying the Influence of River Network Structure on Riverine Communities and Ecosystems”. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, vol. 30, no. 1, 2011: 310-327.
    • Gisli Palsson, “Human-Environmental Relations. Orientalism, Paternalism and Communalism,” in: Nature and Society. Anthropological Perspectives, ed. by Philippe Descola and Gisli Palsson. London and New York : Routledge, 1996: 63-81.

10. Ethics of Empathy and Critical Hope

  • Jeremy Rifkin, “The Hidden Paradox of Human History,” in his: The Empathic Civilization. The Race to Global Consciousness in a World of Crisis. New York: Penguin, 2009: 5-43.
  • Vincent Crapanzano, „Reflections on Hope as a Category of Social and Psychological Analysis”. Cultural Anthropology, vol. 18, no. 1, 2003: 3-32.
  • Rebecca Coleman and Debra Ferreday, “Introduction: Hope and Feminist Theory.” Journal for Cultural Research , vol. 14, no. 4, October 2010: 313-322.
  • 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.
    • Mick Smith, “Dis(appearance): Earth, Ethics and Apparently (In)Significant Others.' Australian Humanities Review, vol. 50, 2011: 23-44.
    • Gregory Little, “Synnoetics and Self: The Construction of Planetary Identity as an Aesthetic Oeuvre.” Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, vol. 2, no. 2, 2004:
    • Joan E. Strassmann, David C. Queller, John C. Avise, and Francisco J. Ayala, “In the Light of Evolution V: Cooperation and Conflict”. PNAS , vol. 108, June 2011: 10787-10791.
    • Jill Bennett, Empathic Vision. Stanford. Stanford University Press, 2005.
    • Joanna Zylinska, Bioethics in the Age of New Media. Cambridge, Mass.; London: The MIT Press, 2009.
    • Marc Bekoff, “Increasing our Compassion Footprint: The Animals' Manifesto.” Zygon, vol. 43, no. 4, December 2008: 771-782.
    • Martha C. Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2006.

©ed 2012