Natural facts have frequently been used to justify sexism, racism, homophobia and other types of discrimination. Biological sex differences are often depicted as essentially separate and static. However, reviewing the variation of sex and related characters reveal an enormous diversity. In reality, nature is queer – transgressing boundaries of sex, gender and sexuality. There are plenty of species in which bodies transcend the limits of common expectations on nature. There are bodies that transform from males to females depending on their social environment, bodies that include both female and male functions, eggs that are unsexed but receive their sex due to the temperature during incubation. All these bodies are often described as exceptions from a two-sexed heterosexual norm in which individuals have fixed sexes.
In this lecture I use queer perspectives to examine sex and gender in evolutionary biology, I examinate norms and question categorizations of sex, gender and sexuality, I then review the large variation of sexes in nature, and lastly, I present a non-normative perspective on natural variation in sex and sexuality.
Der Vortrag widmet sich einem kleinen, aber wirkungsvollem Tier: der Laus. Ausgehend von zwei literarischen Texten des frühen 19. Jahrhunderts, E.T.A. Hoffmanns Briefnovelle Haimatochare und Georg Büchners Drama Woyzeck, stellt er die konkreten Verfahrensweisen und möglichen Erträge eines „Animal Reading“ vor: Was passiert, wenn ich einen literarischen Text von den Tieren her lese? Dreierlei: Erstens werden Textstellen, die für die bisherige Forschung besonders rätselhaft (oder auch besonders unauffällig waren), plötzlich lesbar. Zweitens ergibt sich eine neue kulturtheoretische Einordnung der Mensch-Tier-Relation, die im Text verhandelt wird. Und drittens lässt sich eine eigene Ästhetik der Tiere nachzeichnen, deren Berücksichtigung als konstitutiver Bestandteil der Cultural Animal Studies zu werten ist.
Nonhuman animals behave in intriguing ways. Bees build the most precise combs for storing their honey, orcas and dolphins inter-individually coordinate their hunting techniques, elephants grief their deceased relatives, rats empathize with their kind – the list proves endless. Such abilities have led to innumerous claims (and counterclaims) of nonhuman animals’ ability to reason, think and experience, and at times suffer, complex emotions throughout human history. The currently popular concept of ‘animal agency’ seems to be merely the latest push in accounting and indeed advocating for the individuality of nonhuman animals and the self-willingness of their behavior, but also to recognize the influence they have exerted and continue to exert on human culture, while simultaneously avoiding anthropomorphism. Yet the concept remains blurry and is far from uncontroversial, and indeed can only be contoured within the intellectual constellation of its emergence and the context of its object. The talk’s first part provides a critical introduction to current debates on animal agency and contextualizes these within humanities scholarship more generally. A second part elaborates the agency of animals further, through Charles Darwin’s account of aesthetic choices by animals in his theory of selection in relation to sex.
The relationship between the development of modern moving image media technologies and the ‘scientific’ study of animal motion in the late 19th century is now widely known. When film studies turns to representations of the animal, however, the material specificities of animals and their movements in actual and represented time and space must be taken seriously. This talk focuses on the representation of a single animal – the cow – and specific kinds of movement – the drive, the stampede – in a particular kind of film – the western. While the western genre has attracted considerable attention in film studies, the cattle so central to the films are routinely marginalised if they are mentioned at all. Only a small number of Westerns are actually concerned with the working life of the cowboy; these films tend to offer audiences dramatic representations of the long cattle drives that from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s constituted the ‘beef bonanza’ which transformed American culture. Stampede sequences, in which the herd is temporarily foregrounded for dramatic effect, will provide the basis here for a reconsideration of this genre focused explicitly on its representation of the movement and the management of the non-human multitude. Stampede sequences will be examined as cinematic spectacle and understood in relation to biopower. This lecture will consider the stampede sequence as the generic set piece of cattle drive cinema and will focus on the practical logistics, the formal aesthetics and the ideological dimensions of the stampede spectacle by looking at a range of Hollywood Westerns.