Sex and Nature, 1800-2018
10-11 June 2019
The University of Exeter, UK
Greta LaFleur, Yale University, USA
Astrida Neimanis, University of Sydney, Australia
Artist in Residence:
Amy Cutler, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Since 2016 the Ecosexual Bathhouse art venue has been touring the world. Designed by the Pony Express artist collective, this roving multi-chamber venue aims to explore ecological fantasies: visitors can visit a pollination gallery, a composting glory hole, and a honey bee swarm. Activating desire and channelling erotic expression towards the elements of water, earth, air and fire, the project aims to nurture a visceral connection to nonhuman animals, plants, minerals, and inanimate materials.
The Ecosexual Bathhouse is but one of a number of exemplary case studies that disrupt and display the entangled categories of “sex” and “nature.” This conference aims to interrogate and investigate diverse moments and sites where sex and nature, along with their practices, aesthetics, methodologies, and conceptual histories, are becoming visible in new and unexpected contexts, both in the present and the past, from sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld’s interest in ‘intersex butterflies’ in the 1920s to the botanical sex scene of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (2007).
Historically, the relationship between sex and nature has long been contested. Ideas of nature and the natural have often been employed to secure and essentialise heteronormative binaries of sex, gender and sexuality. Much feminist and queer scholarship has been dedicated to revealing and challenging such uses of the natural. At the same time, the relationship between nature, the natural and sex has been interpreted to support a variety of causes: in the late nineteenth century, for example, feminists took on the cause of anti-vivisection because they saw it as indicative of a common objectification of women and animals. From Darwin and Linnaeus to Krafft-Ebing and Kinsey, categories of sex and sexuality were introduced into concepts of nature and the natural world. This categorisation of sex and nature led to highly contested and politicised debates among their contemporaries. More recently, the relationship between sex and nature has opened up debates in ecofeminism (Greta Gaard, Val Plumwood), material feminism (Elizabeth Wilson, Stacey Alaimo) and Anthropocene feminism (Claire Colebrook) that seek to rethink the relationship between sex and nature. Instead of rejecting or challenging the idea of the natural, such scholarship has demonstrated the queer and feminist potential of nature. Ground-breaking treatments of nature and sex have led to robust theorizations of queer ecologies (Catriona Sandilands, Astrida Neimanis), natural histories of sexuality (Greta LaFleur) and new kinship forms through reproductive technologies (Sarah Franklin), to name but a few.
The conference welcomes scholars from all disciplines drawing on a broad range of methodologies and focusing broadly on the period since 1800. We aim to explore the entangled categories of sex and nature by examining a wide range of topics related, but not restricted to:
– Natural histories of sex and sexuality
– Sexuality and nature: naturalising sexuality, sexing nature
– Queering nature, naturalising queerness
– (Un)natural sex, (de)naturalising sex, (re)naturalising sex
– The politics of sexual nature
– Nature, naturalness and normativity
– Nature and feminist critique, past and present
– The sexual politics of biotechnological reproduction
– (De)extinction and (re)production
– Sex and nature in the Anthropocene
– Authorities on nature beyond natural sciences
– Race, indigeneity, sex and nature
– Human, animal, vegetable sexuality
– Sex, nature and disability
– Intra-species sexualities from prehistory to the present
– Intersex across species-boundaries
Abstracts of 350 words, along with a 50-word bio, sent in word format or copied into email body, should be sent to Dr Ina Linge([email protected]) and Dr Sarah Bezan ([email protected]) by 30 January 2019. Confirmed participants will be notified by early February 2019. Early career scholars and post-graduate researchers are expressly encouraged to submit abstracts. Travel bursaries will be offered to two postgraduate participants in exchange for live-tweeting during the conference and written reports following the conference. Please let us know in your abstract submission if you would like to be considered for these. We are keen to publish a selection of papers from the conference as an edited volume or special journal issue. Further plans will be discussed with delegates at the conference.