Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights


19 May 2016
14:00 - 18:00
Opzoomerkamer, Academiegebouw, Domplein 29

Workshop Memory, Posthumanism, and the Anthropocene


This workshop will bring memory studies into conversation with the fields of posthumanism and ecocriticism around the concept of the anthropocene. The workshop is related to a special issue of the journal Parallax on Memory after Humanism, edited by Kári Driscoll (UU) and Susanne C. Knittel (UU), which will be published in the fall of 2017.

The workshop will consist of a mixture of talks and discussion, and there will be assigned readings to prepare. Coffee and tea will be served.


14.00-14.15: Introduction by Kári Driscoll and Susanne C. Knittel,

14.15-15.00: Pieter Vermeulen (KU Leuven, Belgium), The Dark Atlantic: Anthropocene Fiction and the Memory of (Non)human Life.
(Response by Ann Rigney)


15.00-15.45: Discussion of the talk and of assigned readings.

16.00-16.30: Birgit M. Kaiser (UU) and Kathrin Thiele (UU), What is Species Memory? A New Poetics of the Propter Nos in Sylvia Wynter and Édouard Glissant


  • Drucilla Cornell and Stephen Seely (2015) “Undertaking Man, Making the Human: Toward A New Ceremony, For Sylvia Wynter.” In The Spirit of Revolution, Beyond the Dead Ends of Man. Polity Press, pp. 119-158. (Will be sent to you upon registration)
  • Claire Colebrook (2014) “Posthuman Humanities.” In Death of the PostHuman. Open Humanities Press, pp. 158-185. (

16.30-17.30: Discussion of the talk and of assigned readings.

17.30-18.00: Concluding discussion.

Please register by sending an e-mail to by May 1, 2016.
Space is limited, so please register early.
Readings will be distributed nearer the date.


The Dark Atlantic: Anthropocene Fiction and the Memory of (Non)human Life

The Anthropocene afflicts cultural memory in at least two ways: first, it destabilizes the distinction between human and natural history, as human life is now understood as a geological agent; second, it confronts human life with the possibility of its own extinction, and thus with the prospect that human life will itself become nothing more than a memory. This presentation argues that the literary novel, a genre which has traditionally served to consolidate the “humanity” of the human animal, has begun to respond to this challenge of remembering human life differently—of remembering it as inextricably implicated with nonhuman lives. Through a discussion of J.M. Ledgard’s 2011 novel Submergence, which interweaves a transatlantic love story with accounts of the biomathematical study of microbial deep ocean life, I show how Anthropocene fiction explores the juncture where (cultural) forms of life mesh with (biological) life forms, where cultural comparison encounters interdisciplinary assemblages, and where global connectedness morphs into planetary relatedness. Submergence shows that remembering human life in the Anthropocene involves a recognition of a nonhuman element that resists humanization—of a properly “immemorial” dimension. The novel’s engagement with hydrothermal vents, tubeworms, and marine microbes, I argue, invites the study of transnational memory to expand its horizon from the encounters between different forms of life to the confrontation with radically nonhuman life forms.

Pieter Vermeulen is Assistant Professor of American and Comparative Literature at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He works in the fields of critical theory, the contemporary novel, and memory studies. His writing has appeared (or will appear) in journals such as ArcadiaCriticismCritiqueGenreLiterature Compass, Journal of Modern Literature, Memory StudiesModern Fiction StudiesMosaicPhilological Quarterly, Poetics TodayStudies in the Novel, and Textual Practice. He is the author of Romanticism After the Holocaust (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2010) and Contemporary Literature and the End of the Novel: Creature, Affect, Form (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and a co-editor of, most recently, Institutions of World Literature (Routledge, 2015) and Memory Unbound (Berghahn, 2016).

What is Species Memory? A New Poetics of the Propter Nos in Sylvia Wynter and Édouard Glissant

In 1995, reflecting on the debates around the quincentennial commemoration of 1492, the Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter published a text called “1492: A New World View.” In that text, Wynter strives to surpass the oppositional model of remembering, in which the meaning of “the 1492 event” – either, from what she calls a celebrant perspective, a “discovery” and a “glorious achievement” (Wynter 5), or, from a dissident perspective, i.e. the beginning to five centuries of colonization of the native population as well as “genocide and ecocide” (7) – remains tied to a humanist understanding of propter nos: a “we” seen purely from within the cultural group with which one coidentifies. “Can we,” Wynter asks, “put forward a new world view of 1492 from the perspective of the species, and with reference to the interests of its well-being, rather than from the partial perspectives, and with reference to the necessarily partial interests, of both celebrants and dissidents?” (8)
In our presentation we will engage closely with Wynter’s concern with species memory and we discuss what kind of shifts this could imply for current discussions of the Anthropocene and Posthumanism.

Birgit Mara Kaiser teaches Comparative Literature at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She studied sociology and literature in Bochum, London, Madrid, and Bielefeld, and received her PhD in Comparative Literature from New York University. Her current research spans literatures in English, French and German from the 18th to 21st century, with special interest in aesthetics, affectivity and subject-formation. She is the author of Figures of Simplicity. Sensation and Thinking in Kleist and Melville (SUNY Press, 2011) and editor of Postcolonial Literatures and Deleuze. Colonial Pasts, Differential Futures (with Lorna Burns), Palgrave MacMillan, 2012; ‘Diffracted Worlds – Diffractive Readings: Onto-Epistemologies and the Critical Humanities’, special issue of Parallax (with Kathrin Thiele) 20/3, 2014; and Singularity and Transnational Poetics, Routledge, 2015. Her work also appeared in Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary InquiryInternational Journal for Francophone StudiesInterventionsParallax and Textual Practice. She founded and coordinates the Interdisciplinary Network for the Critical Humanities Terra Critica ( together with Kathrin Thiele.

Kathrin Thiele teaches Gender Studies at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. She is trained as a critical theorist with research expertise in continental philosophy, feminist theories of difference, and posthuman(ist) studies. Her current research explores feminist cosmopolitics from a posthuman(ist) perspective, and with it she aims at the revitalization of critical analyses within the (new) humanities. She has authored The Thought of Becoming. Gilles Deleuze’s Poetics of Life (2008), and edited HAPPY DAYS: Lebenswissen nach Cavell (with Katrin Trüstedt) 2009; Biopolitische Konstellationen (with Maria Muhle) 2011. Her articles have appeared among others in Women: A Cultural ReviewDeleuze StudiesInterventionsRhizomes and Parallax. She is also founder and coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Network for the Critical Humanities Terra Critica (, together with Birgit M. Kaiser.