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For the 2012 annual conference, The Center for 21st Century Studies considered the “Nonhuman Turn” that has been emerging in the arts, humanities, and social sciences over the past few decades. The response to the conference was overwhelmingly positive and quite enthusiastic. The initial Call For Papers (CFP) generated a significant amount of buzz on social media such as Facebook and Twitter; we received over 120 paper proposals, only about forty of which we were able to accept. The Curtin Hall 175 auditorium was at capacity all weekend long, and people across the globe watched the livestreamed plenary talks, weighing in via tweets and blog posts. The conference was organized by C21 director Richard Grusin, C21 deputy director Mary Mullen, C21 associate director John Blum, and C21 provost postdoctoral scholar Rebekah Sheldon.

The Nonhuman Turn conference inspired lively debates — online and in person — about how the humanities needs to think beyond the human. Over the course of the eight plenary lectures and twelve breakout sessions, it became clear that the nonhuman is at once a philosophical, ethical, political,and technological problem. The passion and energy invested in teasing out how best to understand objects, subject-object relations, networks, animals, affect, ecology, materialism, media—even death—showed that if the nonhuman turn has a long history, it is definitely gathering intensity in the 21st century.

Check out the CFP for this year’s conference on the “Dark Side of the Digital,” May 2-4 2013.