The Human is More than Human: Interspecies Communities and the New “Facts of Life” A Conversation with Dorion Sagan
Organizer: John M. Hartigan (UT Austin)
Discussants: Myra Hird (Queen's University), Stefan G. Helmreich (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Kim TallBear (UC Berkeley), and Augustin Fuentes (University of Notre Dame).
This year’s “Culture at Large” session—the signature forum for the Society for Cultural Anthropology at the AAA annual meetings—will feature Dorion Sagan, a fascinating thinker who has written and co-authored a range of books, including, Chimeras and Consciousness: Evolution of the Sensory Self (2011), The Sciences of Avatar: from Anthropology to Xenology (2010); Death & Sex (2009); Notes from the Holocene: A Brief History of the Future (2007); Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature (2007); and Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species (2003). Sagan’s talk, “The Human is More Than Human: Interspecies Communities and the New ‘Facts of Life’,” will be followed by discussant commentary from Myra Hird, Stefan Helmreich, Kim TallBear, and Agustin Fuentes.
In this forum, Sagan offers himself as a vector bringing the new biology to the anthropological community. As Earth's population doubled over the last 50 years, we are forced into ecological confrontation with the reality that "we" are more than human. Delving into the thermodynamic facts of ecology and the still too-little known, deep evolutionary drama that got us here, Sagan will sketch some road markers for acquiring the biological literacy necessary to understand the ecological realities that are forcing themselves onto human consciousness. Although its derivation from the Soviet science of V.I. Vernadsky is cryptic, ecothermodynamic thought has provided a rich source for theorizing, as well as transhuman master metaphors for philosophers from Bataille to Derrida. In reflecting on these distinctive theoretical strands, Sagan will sketch the analytical orientation that cultural anthropologists should acquire as they increasingly pursue multispecies research.
** Read Sagan's Introduction to A Foray into the World of Animals and Humans by Jakob von Uexkull, U. Minn Press.**
Voices from Oxford: Homage to Darwin
ARTICLES AND ESSAYS BY SAGAN
ABOUT DORION SAGAN
Author and co-author of twenty-four books translated into eleven languages, Dorion Sagan has written for Natural History, Smithsonian, BioScience, The Sciences, The Ecologist, Co-Evolution Quarterly, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Skeptical Inquirer, Wired, Pabular, Times Higher Education Supplement, Whole Earth Review, and Cabinet. He writes the column "In Orbit" at Wild River Review, an online magazine devoted to culture, travel and politics. He is recipient of an EdPress Association of America Excellence in Educational Journalism Award, and has been anthologized in scientific collections such as those edited by Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson, as well as in philosophical collections such as Zone 6: Incorporations, published by MIT Press. Sagan's co-authored Into the Cool, on life and energy, was called "fascinating" by Nobel Laureate chemist Roald Hoffmann; his co-authored Up From Dragons, on neuroscience and brain evolution, was called "Thrilling" by Publishers Weekly; his co-authored Microcosmos, was called "a seminal book" by science fiction author Ben Bova. Writing about this book in The New York Times Book Review, Dr. Melvin Konner wrote that "this admiring reader of Lewis Thomas, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould has seldom, if ever, seen such a luminous prose style in a work of this kind." Peter Warshall, an editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, called his co-authored What is Sex? "The most interesting text written on sex." His coauthored What is Life? (Foreword by Niles Eldredge), was called "A masterpiece of science writing" by Orion, and included with works by Billie Holiday and William Shakespeare on a list of "100 Mind-Altering Masterpieces" by Utne Reader. Death/Sex, the double book with NYU professor Tyler Volk, won Bookbinders' Guild of New York 2009 Award for Best Nonfiction Hardcover. Of Sagan's contribution Denis Noble, Professor Emeritus of Physiology, Oxford University, Fellow of the Royal Society, and former thesis advisor for Richard Dawkins had the following to say: "In just 100 pages, everything you really need to know about sex: Why? When? Where? With whom? Dorion Sagan slides effortlessly from seductive prose to bringing the reader sharp up against one astonishing scientific discovery after another." His latest books include, The Sciences of Avatar, released exclusively on Kindle, and Notes from the Holocene, recently released in Chinese. Cofounder of Chelsea Green Publishing Company's Sciencewriters imprint, and a Fellow of the Lindisfarne Association, Dorion has been a Humana Scholar at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and is a member of the Advisory Board of Sputnik Observatory, a New York cultural intelligence group. He currently divides his time between Toronto and western Massachusetts.