Bookshelf 2016


Gillian King, who is an MFA student at Ottawa U. will be curating an exhibition for PDA Projects : You Maniacs You Blew It All Up. Wait for it!  She sent me some links on the Anthropocene:

Haven’t read it yet, but Lynda Hall and Katie Ingrey sent me this article that is right on our topic.

University of Wisconsin–Madison
“The gift in the animal:
The ontology of hunting and human–animal sociality”

in  American Ethnologist Volume34 Number1 February2007.


(These are suggestions for books to read. Summaries have been taken from publishers’ sites, Amazon, Wikipedia and )

Ackerman, Diane: The Human Age : the world shaped by us. (New York, NY : W. W. Norton & Company 2014)

“Humans have subdued 75 percent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness. We tinker with nature at every opportunity; we garden the planet with our preferred species of plants and animals, many of them invasive; and we have even altered the climate, threatening our own extinction. Yet we reckon with our own destructive capabilities in extraordinary acts of hope-filled creativity … Ackerman [explores] our new reality, introducing us to many of the people and ideas now creating–perhaps saving–our future and that of our fellow creatures”

 Bennett: Vibrant matter: a political ecology of things  (Durham : Duke University Press, 2010)

“Argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. This title explores how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency always emerges as the effect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces.”

Berman, Bob and Robert Lanza: Biocentrism: how life and consciousness are the keys to understanding the true nature of the universe. (DallasTX: BenBella Books , Inc 2009)

 “Every now and then, a simple yet radical idea shakes the very foundations of knowledge. The startling discovery that the world was not flat challenged and ultimately changed the way people perceived themselves and their relationships with the world. For most humans of the 15th century, the notion of Earth as ball of rock was nonsense. The whole of Western natural philosophy is undergoing a sea change again, forced upon us by the experimental findings of quantum theory. At the same time, these findings have increased our doubt and uncertainty about traditional physical explanations of the universe’s genesis and structure. Biocentrism completes this shift in worldview, turning the planet upside down again with the revolutionary view that life creates the universe instead of the other way around. In this new paradigm, life is not just an accidental byproduct of the laws of physics.

Biocentrism takes the reader on a seemingly improbable but ultimately inescapable journey through a foreign universe—our own—from the viewpoints of an acclaimed biologist and a leading astronomer. Switching perspective from physics to biology unlocks the cages in which Western science has unwittingly managed to confine itself. Biocentrism shatters the reader’s ideas of life, time and space, and even death. At the same time, it releases us from the dull worldview that life is merely the activity of an admixture of carbon and a few other elements; it suggests the exhilarating possibility that life is fundamentally immortal.

Biocentrism awakens in readers a new sense of possibility and is full of so many shocking new perspectives that the reader will never see reality the same way again.”

Susan J Blackmore: Consciousness : a very short introduction. (Oxford, UK ; New York, N.Y. : Oxford University Press 2005).

A lively introduction that combines the perspectives of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience – written by the top name in the field, Susan Blackmore.

Braidotti, Rosi: The Posthuman                 (Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA, USA : Polity Press, 2013 2013)

“The Posthuman offers both an introduction and major contribution to contemporary debates on the posthuman. Digital ‘second life’, genetically modified food, advanced prosthetics, robotics and reproductive technologies are familiar facets of our globally linked and technologically mediated societies. This has blurred the traditional distinction between the human and its others, exposing the non-naturalistic structure of the human. The Posthuman starts by exploring the extent to which a post-humanist move displaces the traditional humanistic unity of the subject. Rather than perceiving this situation as a loss of cognitive and moral self-mastery, Braidotti argues that the posthuman helps us make sense of our flexible and multiple identities. Braidotti then analyzes the escalating effects of post-anthropocentric thought, which encompass not only other species, but also the sustainability of our planet as a whole. Because contemporary market economies profit from the control and commodification of all that lives, they result in hybridization, erasing categorical distinctions between the human and other species, seeds, plants, animals and bacteria. These dislocations induced by globalized cultures and economies enable a critique of anthropocentrism, but how reliable are they as indicators of a sustainable future? The Posthuman concludes by considering the implications of these shifts for the institutional practice of the humanities. Braidotti outlines new forms of cosmopolitan neo-humanism that emerge from the spectrum of post-colonial and race studies, as well as gender analysis and environmentalism. The challenge of the posthuman condition consists in seizing the opportunities for new social bonding and community building, while pursuing sustainability and empowerment.”

Chen, Mel Y. : Animacies : biopolitics, racial mattering, and queer affect .          (Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 2012)

” In Animacies, Mel Y. Chen draws on recent debates about sexuality, race, and affect to examine how matter that is considered insensate, immobile, or deathly, animates cultural lives. Toward that end, Chen investigates the blurry division between the living and the dead, or that which is beyond the human or animal. Within the field of linguistics, animacy has been described variously as a quality of agency, awareness, mobility, sentience, or liveness. Chen turns to cognitive linguistics to stress how language habitually differentiates the animate and the inanimate. Expanding this construct, Chen argues that animacy undergirds much that is pressing and indeed volatile in contemporary culture, from animal rights debates to biosecurity concerns. Chen’s book is the first to bring the concept of animacy together with queer of color scholarship, critical animal studies, and disability theory. Through analyses of dehumanizing insults, the meanings of queerness, animal protagonists in recent Asian/American art and film, the lead toy panic in 2007, and the social lives of environmental illness, Animacies illuminates a hierarchical politics infused by race, sexuality, and ability. In this groundbreaking book, Chen rethinks the criteria governing agency and receptivity, health and toxicity, productivity and stillness – and demonstrates how attention to the affective charge of matter challenges commonsense orderings of the world.”

Coole, Diana H., Samatha Frost: New materialisms : ontology, agency, and politics.(Durham [NC] ; London : Duke University Press 2010)

Collection of essays that consider the importance of the material body to discussions of political identity and agency

Dewey, John: Art as Experience. (New York: Minton, Balch & Company 1934)

“Dewey’s theory, here, is an attempt to shift the understandings of what is important and characteristic about the art process from its physical manifestations in the ‘expressive object’ to the process in its entirety, a process whose fundamental element is no longer the material ‘work of art’ but rather the development of an ‘experience’. An experience is something that personally affects your life. That is why these theories are so important to our social and educational life.

Such a change in emphasis does not imply, though, that the individual art object has lost significance; far from it, its primacy is clarified: the object is recognized as the primary site for the dialectical processes of experience, as the unifying occasion for these experiences. Through the expressive object, the artist and the active observer encounter each other, their material and mental environments, and their culture at large.

The description of the actual act of experiencing is drawn heavily from the biological/psychological theories Dewey expounded in his development of functional psychology. In Dewey’s article on reflex arc psychology, he writes that sensory data and worldly stimulus enter into the individual via the channels of afferent sense organs, and that the perception of these stimuli are a ‘summation’ (Wikipedia)”

Haraway, Donna Jeanne: When species meet. (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press 2008)

“In this deeply personal yet intellectually groundbreaking work, Haraway develops the idea of companion species, those who meet and break bread together but not without some indigestion. “A great deal is at stake in such meetings,” she writes, “and outcomes are not guaranteed.  There is no assured happy or unhappy ending—socially, ecologically, or scientifically. There is only the chance for getting on together with some grace.”

Ultimately, she finds that respect, curiosity, and knowledge spring from animal-human associations and work powerfully against ideas about human exceptionalism.

One of the founders of the posthumanities, Donna J. Haraway is professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Author of many books and widely read essays, including The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness and the now-classic essay “The Cyborg Manifesto,” she received the J. D. Bernal Prize in 2000, a lifetime achievement award from the Society for Social Studies in Science.” (Amazon)

Timothy Ingold: Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. (New York/London: Routledge 2011)

“Anthropology is a disciplined inquiry into the conditions and potentials of human life. Generations of theorists, however, have expunged life from their accounts, treating it as the mere output of patterns, codes, structures or systems variously defined as genetic or cultural, natural or social. Building on his classic work The Perception of the Environment, Tim Ingold sets out to restore life to where it should belong, at the heart of anthropological concern.

Being Alive ranges over such themes as the vitality of materials, what it means to make things, the perception and formation of the ground, the mingling of earth and sky in the weather-world, the experiences of light, sound and feeling, the role of storytelling in the integration of knowledge, and the potential of drawing to unite observation and description.

Our humanity, Ingold argues, does not come ready-made but is continually fashioned in our movements along ways of life. Starting from the idea of life as a process of wayfaring, Ingold presents a radically new understanding of movement, knowledge and description as dimensions not just of being in the world, but of being alive to what is going on there.” (


 Manning, Erin and Brian Massumi: Thought in the Act – Passages in the Ecology of Experience  (Minnesoto: University of Minnesota Press 2014)Explores the intimate connections between thinking and creative practice

“Combining philosophy and aesthetics, Thought in the Act is a unique exploration of creative practice as a form of thinking. Challenging the common opposition between the conceptual and the aesthetic, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi “think through” a wide range of creative practices in the process of their making, revealing how thinking and artfulness are intimately, creatively, and inseparably intertwined.”

Eagleton, Terry: The Meaning of Life: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008)

“So what is the meaning of life? In this witty, spirited, and stimulating inquiry, Eagleton shows how centuries of thinkers – from Shakespeare and Schopenhauer to Marx, Sartre and Beckett – have tackled the question. Refusing to settle for the bland and boring, Eagleton reveals with a mixture of humour and intellectual rigour how the question has become particularly problematic in modern times. Instead of addressing it head-on, we take refuge from the feelings of ‘meaninglessness’ in our lives by filling them with a multitude of different things: from football and sex, to New Age religions and fundamentalism.

Latour, Bruno: An inquiry into modes of existence : an anthropology of the moderns. (Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2013)

“In a new approach to philosophical anthropology, this book offers answers to questions raised in We Have Never Been Modern: If not modern, what have we been, and what values should we inherit? It offers a new basis for diplomatic encounters with other societies at a time of ecological crisis.”

 Morton, Timothy :  Hyperobjects : philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. (Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press 2013).

“Having set global warming in irreversible motion, we are facing the possibility of ecological catastrophe. But the environmental emergency is also a crisis for our philosophical habits of thought, confronting us with a problem that seems to defy not only our control but also our understanding. Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects”– entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place. In this book, Morton explains what hyperobjects are and their impact on how we think, how we coexist with one another and with nonhumans, and how we experience our politics, ethics, and art. Moving fluidly between philosophy, science, literature, visual and conceptual art, and popular culture, the book argues that hyperobjects show that the end of the world has already occurred in the sense that concepts such as world, nature, and even environment are no longer a meaningful horizon against which human events take place. Instead of inhabiting a world, we find ourselves inside a number of hyperobjects, such as climate, nuclear weapons, evolution, or relativity. Such objects put unbearable strains on our normal ways of reasoning.”

Wolfe, Cary: Zoontologies : the question of the animal.  (Minneapolis, MN : University of Minnesota Press, ©2003)

“Those nonhuman beings called animals pose philosophical and ethical questions that go to the root not just of what we think but of who we are. Their presence asks: what happens when the Other can no longer safely be assumed to be human? This collection offers a set of incitements and coordinates for exploring how these issues have been represented in contemporary culture and theory, from Jurassic Park and the “horse whisperer” Monty Roberts, to the work of artists such as Joseph Beuys and William Wegman; from foundational texts on the animal in the works of Heidegger and Freud, to the postmodern rethinking of ethics and animals in figures such as Singer, Deleuze, Lyotard, and Levinas; from the New York Times investigation of a North Carolina slaughterhouse, to the first appearance in any language of Jacques Derrida’s recent detailed critique of Lacan’s rendering of the human/animal divide.

Contributors: Steve Baker, U of Central Lancashire; Jacques Derrida, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Ursula K. Heise, Columbia U; Charlie LeDuff, New York Times; Alphonso Lingis, Pennsylvania State U; Paul Patton, U of Sydney; Judith Roof, Michigan State U; David Wills, SUNY, Albany.” (

Cary Wolfe is professor of English at the State University of New York, Albany.




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