The 2nd International Conference on Postcolonial Theory and Practice in the 21st century

Re-Imagining the Limits of the Human
University of Rzeszów, Poland, April 12-13, 2018
Deadline for proposals: January 15, 2018

Keynote speakers: Julia Fiedorczuk (University of Warsaw), Dorota Kołodziejczyk (University of Wrocław), Mark Jackson (University of Bristol), John Thieme (University of East Anglia)

Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man is one of the most widely recognizable symbols of the anthropocentric humanism, which demonstrated an interest in the individual and in his body as a cosmografia del minor mondo. Indicating the perfection of human beings, this form of iconography also suggested their completeness and thus autonomy which predestined them to be the masters of the larger world. Half a millennium later, theories of posthumanism have started to question this perspective on human beings, proposing a more porous and inclusive definition of man. As the idea of the central role of man in the world is challenged, people also acknowledge their co-determining relationship with the environment and technology, seeing themselves as part of a continuum of biological life on the one hand, and as technological beings by definition on the other.

At the same time, environmental studies focus on the opposite side of the human-environment relationship, studying ways in which human activity causes broadly understood environmental problems. Seen from this perspective, human beings are considered to constitute just one of the elements of a larger ecosystem and, as a result, their claim to a privileged position in the world – allowing for the pursuit of their goals based on unrestrained exploitation of the natural environment – is undermined.

The concerns of posthumanism and environmental studies could be seen as overlapping to some extent with those of postcolonial theory. The ideology of colonialism often appropriated the humanist ideal but limited it to the race of masters, justifying in this way their dominion. Actively dehumanizing subjugated peoples, the colonizing power placed them in the same category as the natural world which it held to be open for exploitation.

As postcolonial theory focuses on the way in which groups define themselves through strategies of inclusion and exclusion – including the ideal of humanism – it seems only natural that in a time of broader reflection upon the normative boundaries of the human and the role of people in the world, the field of interest of postcolonial theory should be extended to include (potential) forms of discrimination and exploitation that, until the present moment, have remained under the radar.

The aim of the upcoming interdisciplinary conference, organised by the Institute of English Studies, University of Rzeszów, is to provide a wide forum for a discussion of the ways in which postcolonial theory could become a part of a wider theoretical reflection concerned with the changing perception of the human. It will be a unique opportunity not only to examine how the understanding of what is human has changed in the twenty-first century, but also to explore the ways in which this change could affect the structures of power.

The conference organizers extend an invitation to scholars who are willing to explore the intersection between postcolonial theory, posthumanism and environmental studies. However, we are loath to limit our debates to these three areas of research only; equally welcome are academics representing a variety of other fields, including literary studies, philosophy, culture studies, history, science and technology studies, political science, animal studies etc., who would be willing to offer meaningful contributions to the discussion of the problems outlined above.

Suggested questions and topic areas:

  • technological essence of the human
  • conquering technologically created lands
  • extended mind: extended vulnerability?
  • human enhancement: leaving others behind?
  • digital natives: masters or slaves?
  • (The White) Social Media’s Burden
  • cyber racism
  • dominions of techno-science
  • colonizing life itself
  • ethics of hybridization
  • onto-ethical status of living beings
  • the human in the Anthropocene
  • environmental identity
  • human – slave – animal
  • animal rights
  • environmental responsibility
  • planetarity, eco- cosmopolitanism
  • the politics of natural disasters
  • environmental impact of the modern war
  • challenging the nature-culture binary
  • literary and artistic representations of the above topics

Participants are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute presentations. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted by January 15, 2018, pasted into the registration form provided on the webpage . All proposals will be reviewed by the organizing committee. Participants will be notified of acceptance by February 15, 2018.

Full versions of the articles intended for publication should be submitted to by January 31, 2018. Papers accepted for publication will appear in a reviewed volume published either by Peter Lang within Studies in the English Language and Anglophone Literature and Cultureseries or by Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Rzeszowskiego (the publishing house of the University of Rzeszów) .

Conference fee (covering refreshments, lunches, conference dinner, participation certificate and publication expenses) is 425 PLN or €100 (€90 conference fee plus €10 for bank transfer fees). It should be paid by bank transfer to the University of Rzeszów account (account number provided upon acceptance) by February 28, 2018.

Conference webpage:

Organising Committee: dr hab. Elżbieta Rokosz-Piejko, dr Patrycja Austin, dr Sławomir Kozioł, dr Małgorzata Martynuska, mgr Donald Trinder

Conference Secretary: mgr Paula Wieczorek