CfP Anthropo-Fictions: non-human ethics, technics, and politics for other possible worlds

Vol 21 of Culture Machine, edited by Claudio Celis Bueno and raúl rodríguez freire (2022)

Coming from Latin fingere (and the latter from the Greek plasma), fiction is no more but also no less than manual work. Myth reminds us of this, but also English, German (finger) and French (doigt) –the latter being closest to the Indo-European for fiction, dheigh. The Spanish reference work known as Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (from 1611), understood fiction as forming, ‘as making a thing from clay… this is it in strict sense, but take it as anything that is formed either through understanding or with the hand’. Hence, fiction cannot be thought without the hand, or for that matter without technics (Leroi-Gourhan, Stiegler). It’s no surprise, then, that current critical efforts in anthropology are granting a novel centrality to the study of the modes of existence of technical objects among ‘other cultures’, not just to escape from the false opposition between culture and technics, but also to transform a damaged planet (Tsing) through speculative work (Haraway). The form created by the hand can go from a line or an image (Ingold) to a world (Viveiros de Castro, Strathern, Haraway). This double gesture simultaneously reaches outwards (towards ‘other cultures’) and inwards (towards the ‘hyper-technologization’ of the world). We would like to examine this double gesture and to explore alternative creative attempts at an anthropo-fictive practice that aims to pierce through the metaphysics of the anthropological framework.

Hence, this issue of Culture Machine sets out to supplement a double movement in recent anthropological thought. On the one hand, there is an ongoing critique of anthropological fiction as a major source and a legitimating force of Western forms of domination, including anthropocentrism. On the other hand, there is a politicisation of anthropological discourse which upholds the radical potential of imagination, and which pays special (though non-exclusive) attention to so-called “Amerindian perspectivism” as a privileged site of ontological production of better worlds. We frame this double movement as an ‘anthropology of fiction’ and interrogate the problems of reading, writing and ‘theory’ that such a movement might mobilise in an age of radical technological transformations.

‘Classical’ anthropological fiction is based on two presuppositions. First, there is the difference between human and non-human beings. Second, there is the opposition between the human and technics. Regarding the first presupposition, anthropology conceives the human as the only being capable of culture, which would be at the top of the hierarchy of worldly order and organisation. From this perspective, nature appears devoid of value and meaning, hence as a resource available for human exploitation. Regarding the second presupposition, anthropological fiction conceives of technics as one among other cultural dimensions of human life that is nevertheless seen as in conflict with other cultural dimensions by virtue of its instrumentality. Given these presuppositions, anthropological fiction has been incapable of thinking through the singularity of technical objects. Paradoxically, as Gilbert Simondon has shown, it is precisely anthropological fiction what points toward agriculture as the technical act that inaugurates culture. For Simondon, among others, such a technical origin of culture has been repressed and subsumed under the anthropological dogmatics of culture.

Some trends in current cultural anthropology would seem to pursue the deconstruction of anthropological fiction from the standpoint of ‘non-Western cultures’ and for the sake of a post-anthropocentric fiction to come. As has been shown by Tânia Stolze Lima, Viveiros de Castro, Philippe Descola, among others, Amerindian knowledge practices are sustained by a kind of anthropomorphism that cannot be assimilated by Western metaphysics and, on the contrary, is capable of shaking hegemonic thought. As practices of embodiment, Amerindian knowledges afford the possibility of an anthropology in reverse –such as that enacted by Davi Kopenawa –which exhibits the animism inherent to Western culture instead. They could be therefore articulated with Marx’s critique of commodity fetishism, as Brucel Albert has pointed out.

The question, for us, is how to understand this articulation, and the status of fiction in it, at a time when writing technologies no longer allow for a narrative understanding of fictional work. Can indigenous knowledges teach us something about technicity, anthropo-fictions and, indeed, ‘theory’ which is not, in the end, assimilable to the metaphysical framework of anthropology? What are the problems of reading, writing and ‘theory’ that such a question raises in light of the radical technologies that govern life today?

Suggested topics for submissions include (but are not limited to):

  • Anthropofiction versus Science Fiction
  • Cosmopolitics and techno-diversity
  • Fiction, materialities and technology
  • Non-human ethics and politics for other possible worlds
  • The rights of the non-human
  • Contemporary technologies and non-anthropocentric cultures
  • Anthropocene, capitalocene, technocene, or chthulucene?
  • Deconstructing the anthropological prejudice
  • Perspectivism and symmetry
  • New frameworks to understand the relation between culture and technics

Please submit a 500-word abstract, 5 keywords, and a short biographical note (150 words) to rodriguezfreire@gmail.com and claudiocelisbueno@gmail.com before October 18th, 2021. Submissions will be accepted in the following languages: Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

Submission of abstracts:          October 29th, 2021

Notification of acceptance:     November 7th, 2021

Submission of full papers:       February 28th, 2022

Peer Review:                           March 2022

Revision:                                 April 18th, 2022

Publication:                             July 2022