Of Cows and Hu[man]

(Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Cagatay Emre Dogan (Rutgers University)

Andrea Arnold’s 2022 documentary Cow follows Luma, a cow on a farm, for four years where Arnold says she wanted to show the “the aliveness of the non-human animal”. While the film indeed shows the day-to-day acts of Luma, giving birth here, feeding there sometimes with long takes to give the spectator a sense of empathizing with the non-human, precisely because the cow remains the distant other within the human designed environment confirms our distance from the non-human animal in lieu of its aliveness. Cow is not the first film and literature that centers on cows as a primary space for the negotiation of humanness versus non-human. In his Bestiare, Denis Cote also centers cows, this time from alienating angles where the spectator can no longer differentiate the boundary that separates the human from non-human. Thinking with Manuel DeLanda’s approach to “flat ontology” where individuals differ in “spatiotemporal scale but not in ontological status” (47), we may reconsider this relationship between the cow and the human as radically enmeshed in their relationship to the boundary between human and more/other than human. In this vein, this panel asks the non-human agencies attributed to specifically domesticated animals in film and literature. From Balthazar in Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar who carries the sins of all humans, to Indra Sinha’s main character in his 2007 book Animal’s People, from Abbas Kiarostami’s merging of the animal with the space in his 24 Frames to Sana Takeda and Marjorie Liu’s Monstress series with necromancer cats, this panel would like to rethink the ontological status of the tamed animal in the way it questions the porous boundary between what is human and what is not. Ecological and interspecies aspects of these questions are especially welcome. The topics may include but are not limited to:

questions of domesticity and wildness in literature and film

Posthuman approaches to the concept of domestic animal

Indigenous, non-western relationships of domesticity and animality

Affects surrounding the animal farm and their literary representations

Films and media representations of domestic animals

This panel would like to rethink the ontological status of the tamed animal in the way it questions the porous boundary between what is human and what is not. Ecological and interspecies aspects of these questions are especially welcome.