CFP: Rethinking Humanism

Abstract paper proposals to the relevant convener (check on website) by 15 December 2011; response will be given by 15 February 2012

Theme: Rethinking Humanism
Type: International Conference
Institution: Institute of European Cultural Identity Studies and
Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies, University of St Andrews
Location: St Andrews, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Date: 28.6.–1.7.2012
Deadline: 15.12.2011

The term “humanism” has been used with a variety of meanings and associated with some significant moments in intellectual history. Traceable to ancient times in Protagoras’ “Man is the measure of all things” and central to the renewal enterprise of the Renaissance and to the optimism of the Enlightenment, it was popularised during the nineteenth century and reached its contemporary peak with existentialism in the twentieth. In its widest sense of a discourse that speaks for all of humanity, for “being human” and for “human-centredness”, it has now been in crisis for several decades, accused of exhibiting a range of biases in areas that include gender, race and ethnicity as well as haughtiness about the place of humans in the greater scheme of nature. Its correlates in politics and economics have also suffered significant attacks from critics of liberalism and capitalism. The crisis of the humanist project has been highlighted in recent years through new coinages such as transhumanism and posthumanism. Still, for some thinkers humanism continues to be the best form of speaking about humankind in general terms, whilst granting that the criticisms must be taken on board. The alternatives, it is argued, seem to lead into a fragmentarism which prevents us from seeing the human wood for the subcultural trees.

The aim of the conference is to problematize the representation of human values, identities and behaviours in literature, film and other cultural products, from Antiquity to the present day. We call for theoretical accounts of the origins and vicissitudes of an aspiration for a universal discourse as well as critical readings of its variegated realisations in texts across European languages and periods. We also seek textual and theoretical investigations into current ideas about being human, so we summon specialists in eco-criticism, post-human aesthetics and cyborg literature as well as anthropologists, philosophers, theologians and psychologists, on problems such as self-knowledge, cultural and national identity, human nature, moral universalism and relativism, and the longevity or precarious status of values such as community, hospitality, dignity, modesty and conversation. An ultimate achievement of this interdisciplinary gathering may well turn out to be catching a glimpse of a revived, more self-conscious, more sensitive and more durable New Humanism.

Abstract paper proposals to the relevant convener by 15 December
2011; response will be given by 15 February 2012

Keynote speakers:

Martha Nussbaum
Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the
University of Chicago

Terry Eagleton
Distinguished Professor in English Literature at the Department of
English & Creative Writing at Lancaster University


Dr Gustavo San Román, Director
Institute of European Cultural Identity Studies

Professor Nigel Rapport, Director
Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies, Department of Social Anthropology

Conference website:



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