Liisa Malkki, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University

Baby Animals and Welfare Pigeons: On the Uses of the Nonhuman in the Cultivation of Humanitarian Sentiment

Date: 
Mon, 04/13/2009
Location: 
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

Join us as we welcome Liisa Malkki from the Stanford Department of Anthropology to LAPA. She will give a talk on "Baby Animals and Welfare Pigeons: On the Uses of the Nonhuman in the Cultivation of Humanitarian Sentiment." This LAPA seminar is jointly sponsored with the Department of Anthropology.

Please note that there will NOT be a paper to read in advance, and the paper itself will be delivered by Professor Malkki before we open to the floor for questions.

Professor Malkki writes: Visual and narrative representations of animals and animal suffering have long been mobilized to cultivate sensibilities and provoke emotions in humanitarian practice. "Baby animals" teach children compassion and caring, and abandoned pets speak of human thoughtlessness, of conduct less than human because it is not humane. At the same time, of course, animality has long stood for "the night side of man". The "undeserving poor" become welfare pigeons, "breed like rabbits", and so on. This paper examines how contemporary humanitarian practice relies on the government of affect through the imaginative uses of animality.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Liisa Malkki is interested in the contemporary rethinking of the concepts of culture, identity, and the nation; in internationalism, cosmopolitanism, and human rights discourses as transnational cultural forms; in the social production of historical memory and the uses of history; and in exile, displacement, racism, and the political imagination of "foreignness" as key phenomena of our time. Her field research has focused principally on the ways in which political violence and exile may produce transformations of historical consciousness and national identity among displaced people. Her recent research includes interrelationships among humanitarian interventions and internationalism in the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross. She was a fellow in residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2000-2001. For more information on Liisa Malkki, see her profile at Stanford.