Today’s post is published in connection with University Press Week, which is organized by the Association of American for University Presses (AAUP). University Press Week was first declared in 1978 by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. More background on #UPWeek can be found here. Likewise, in connection with Give to the Max Day (an initiative to support Minnesota nonprofits on Nov. 17), we published a piece on the early history of University of Minnesota Press, whose first director was Margaret S. Harding—the first woman director of any university press in the country.
As a university press, community is at the center of our mission, and below, Posthumanities series editor Cary Wolfe demonstrates one of our commitments to our communities: a two-day symposium, Avant Museology, that is a collaboration with Walker Art Center and e-flux, which begins on Sunday.
BY CARY WOLFE
Posthumanities series editor
The University of Minnesota Press’s co-sponsorship of Avant Museology (a two-day symposium co-sponsored with e-flux and the Walker Art Center) showcases how art, architecture, theory, and philosophy can make common cause and how the Press’s Posthumanities series occupies a unique role in bringing theorists and artists into conversation. The series has long been committed to the idea that theorists, philosophers, and scholars—working as they do in the relatively impoverished medium of words and texts—have much to learn from artists, designers, architects, and others who work in rich, multidimensional media that allow a kind of non-analytical, non-propositional form of conceptualization of the problems and questions that animate theory and criticism today: questions of the place of the human in relation to other forms of life; the past, present, and future of the planet; and how technology is informing these in ever more visible and dramatic ways. Institutions such as the Walker Art Center and the University of Minnesota Press have a key role to play in supporting and sustaining these increasingly interdisciplinary exchanges; and many of the volumes in the Posthumanities series—now at 39 titles—take up the relationship between art, architecture, design, and theory, including Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, and series editor Cary Wolfe’s What Is Posthumanism?
On Monday, November 21, at 3:45, Wolfe and Morton will engage in a free-wheeling conversation at the Walker Art Center on the topic “Avant What?” Morton and Wolfe will explore the idea of the avant and the various ways in which avantness has historically been incarnated in art, literature, music, and culture. Both authors will discuss the relationship of the idea of the avant to their own work and the extent to which it is or isn’t a useful way to think ideas of time and temporality, newness and oldness, chronology and succession, beforeness and afterness, and the layered, textured, multi-species, ontologically diverse spaces in which culture (and not just human culture) happens: Morton in relation to his writings on literature, art, music, and ecology in landmark texts such as Ecology Without Nature, The Ecological Thought, Hyperobjects, and Dark Ecology, and Wolfe in relation to his work as both author (Critical Environments, Animal Rites, What Is Posthumanism?, and Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame) and founding editor of the Posthumanities series at the University of Minnesota Press. The Posthumanities series, in which Morton’s book Hyperobjects appears, made a point of disturbing our habitual ways of thinking about this set of questions around temporality, chronology, and succession by republishing as its very first volume in 2007 Michel Serres’ landmark work in science and literature from 1980, The Parasite—a commitment that continues through series titles such as the new translation of Jakob von Uexkull’s pathbreaking text from 1934, A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans, published in the series in 2010. Like the concept of the “avant” as reframed by Morton and Wolfe, then, the “post-” of the Posthumanities series designates not a simple temporal succession of the “before” and the “after,” the “new” and the “old,” but rather a recursive temporality in and through which the past and the present constantly reshape and renew themselves and their genealogical relations. And in this more complex genealogical space, something “old” or “past” may, paradoxically, reveal itself to be new and even “avant” in relation to the habits, conventions, and orthodoxies that shape our present modes of thought.
As part of University Press Week, four members and collaborators have new blog posts today:
University of California Press
Seminary Co-op Bookstores
University of Nebraska Press
University of North Carolina Press