CFP: Workshop on Organisms and Capitalism, Harvard University

Animal Spirits: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Creatures of Capitalism

Workshop at the Weatherhead Center (Canada Program)
27–28 April 2020, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

‘Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature […] our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits—a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction […]’ ~John Maynard Keynes (1936)


The Weatherhead Center at Harvard University invites submissions to a two-day workshop on the study of organisms within capitalism (and possibly post-capitalism). All disciplinary, geographical, and temporal specialties are welcome. We are especially interested in studies drawing on Marxism, anarchism, disability studies, heterodox economics, radical liberalism, Afro-pessimism and other critical frameworks. Potential topics include slaughterhouses, the Sixth Extinction, the intertwined history of ecology and economics, commodity traders (e.g.,  Glencore), domestication, industrial agriculture, activism, biotech, bioethics, bio-prospecting, GMOs, early-modern agrarian capitalism, enclosures, seed banks, biodiversity offsets, synthetic biology, colonial botany, pets, etcetera. We are interested in how capitalism changes the bodies and behaviour of organisms, capitalism’s relationship to nature and science, and labour’s role in the interface between nature and society. 


The purpose of this conference is to offer feedback for those in the midst of writing. Participants will submit drafts (8000 to 12,000 words) four weeks beforehand and everyone is expected to have read all the papers. Discussion will be led by two readers who will have 5 to 10 minutes to offer critique. The aim will be to publish some of the papers in a collection or special issue. We hope to receive applications from scholars of all career stages and disciplines, and we are especially keen to host scholars from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and underrepresented communities. Please send an abstract (300 words) and CV to Troy Vettese ( by 1 January 2020. We will send out notifications within a week. We can offer most participants assistance for travel and lodging, but it is appreciated if scholars can come with their own institutional support.