More-than-Human Legalities Advocating a Posthumanist Turn in Law

While nonhuman forms of life render many legal operations—in fact, law’s very existence as such—possible, legal norms and systems also constitute nonhuman life and render it meaningful in a variety of ways. Up until now, however, scholars have relegated the legal investigation of nonhuman life, and of the animal question in particular, to the typically reformist discourse of animal rights. Within this discourse, legal rights extend to certain nonhuman animals through the same liberal framework that has afforded human rights before it.


This interdisciplinary workshop will propose a new subject of inquiry: more-than-human legalities. It will urge scholars from a variety of backgrounds and disciplinary orientations to envision what legal frameworks that move beyond the humanistic perspective might look like. The workshop will orchestrate an attempt to acknowledge the myriad ways of living in the world, their inherent interconnections, and their manifestations in, and constitutions of, legal apparatuses. It will open up neglected questions that speak to the definition of what, in legal terms, it means to be human and nonhuman, what it means to govern and to be governed, and what are the ethical and political concerns that emerge in the project of governing not only human but also more-than-human life.


The workshop will suggest a number of questions, using the nonhuman animal as a departure point (participants are invited to also apply these questions to non-animal life forms, aggregations of life, and even ecological processes). First, what important juridical insights do “animal questions” offer? Second, how can we move beyond the current humanistic framework that seeks to define animals as liberal subjects, and what might a posthumanist framework that does not attempt to make liberal subjects of nonhuman animals look like? And finally, how do animals define our identity as humans, what does it mean to govern their lives and to “care better” for our interconnected communities, and how might these forms of pastoral power and biopower translate into law? Workshop participants will be invited to apply the emerging insights in various disciplines outside of law—e.g., geography, anthropology, animal studies, and science and technology studies—to consider the vast possibilities of more-than-human legalities.


This two-day workshop will take place on September 11 and 12, 2014 at the Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, SUNY Buffalo Law School, Buffalo NY. Travel related costs will be covered by the Baldy Center.


Participants will be required to submit original papers in advance of the workshop with the understanding that the goal of the workshop is to serve as the foundation for an edited collection.


Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words to Professor Irus Braverman at by Thursday, May 1, 2014.

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