The Politics of Pain – Keep Calm & Carry On?

On December 8th 2010 CCSR held a seminar on the implications of ideas of shared ‘pain’ which have become so central to the coalition government’s discourse of austerity. Speakers were Kate Pickett (co-author of The Spirit Level), Michael Rustin (of UEL and Soundings), and Jeremy Gilbert. Matthew Reisz, writing in the THE, noted how the event coincided with students taking to the streets ‘ahead of last week’s tuition-fees vote’ and the occupation of part of UEL’s campus. An Audio Recording of the seminar is available here and a copy of Jeremy’s paper ‘Sharing the Pain’ is available here.

Women, Work, Equality: From Dagenham to the Coalition Cuts

University of East London, Docklands Campus, Room: EB.G.10

The idea of job creation and job cuts, working and what to do with those who aren’t working, lies at the heart of the coalition government’s reform programme. The plan is simple: public sector jobs and the welfare state are to be cut radically, while the private sector is supposed to fill the vacuum in terms of job creation and big society caring. Responding to the measures, which will hit women disproportionately, the Centre for Cultural Studies Research is hosting a discussion that will focus on the feminist struggle for equality. The event is the third in CCSR’s “Debt, Pain, Work” series that interrogates the discourses and policies of the coalition government.

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Creaturely Lives: A Symposium in Animal Studies

The University of Notre Dame’s London Centre

To mark the publication of Anat Pick’s Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (Columbia University Press, 2011), the Centre for Cultural Studies Research (CCSR) at the University of East London, and the University of Notre Dame in London are holding a symposium to discuss new developments within the field of animal studies.

Debates on animal ethics have been dominated by utilitarian and rights-based moral philosophy, seeking out the shared capacities of humans and animals as a gateway to the moral inclusion of nonhuman animals. Could the idea of creatureliness as the condition of vulnerability, the finitude of all living bodies, offer an alternative to these ethical models? Creatureliness has philosophical, religious, and artistic overtones; it features in the work of Walter Benjamin, in the mystical philosophy of Simone Weil, and resonates with recent developments in “vital materialist” thought. If creatureliness signals a properly universal condition rooted in the materiality and perishability of existence, might it also map out new horizons for theorizing (and living) a transhuman ethics? Point the way to new directions in literary and critical practice?

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New CCSR Publication

Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film by Anat Pick

Simone Weil once wrote that “the vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence.” With these words, she established a relationship among vulnerability, beauty, and existence that transcends the boundaries separating the species. Her conception of a radical ethics and aesthetics could be characterized as a new “poetics of species,” that forces us to rethink the significance of the body, both human and animal. Exploring the “logic of flesh,” or how art and culture use the body to mark species identity, Anat Pick reimagines a poetics that begins with the vulnerability of bodies, not the omnipotence of thought.

Offering a powerful alternative to more personalist visions of morality, Pick proposes a “creaturely” approach based on the shared embodiedness of humans and animals and a postsecular perspective on human-animal relations. She turns to literature, film, and other cultural texts that prioritize the inhuman and challenge the familiar inventory of the human (consciousness, language, morality, and dignity). She reintroduces Weil’s crucially important work and its elaboration of themes such as witnessing, commemoration, and collective memory, and she moves away from assumptions about animal “otherness” and nonhuman subjectivities. Pick identifies the “animal” within all humans, emphasizing the corporeal and its issues of power and freedom. In her creaturely view, powerlessness is the point at which both aesthetic and ethical thinking must begin.