Hum/Animal: Humanities Fall Conference Program

Hum/Animal is the theme of the Humanities Research Center’s fall conference and student film festival, which takes place from September 18-20 on the campus of Duke Kunshan University, and via Zoom.

The conference comprises five elements:

  • Keynote speeches by leading experts on the relationship between humans and other animals, from a range of perspectives, including bioart, philosophy, sociology and cultural studies
  • Parallel sessions featuring the research of new and returning DKU faculty in the humanities and social sciences
  • Parallel sessions featuring the research of undergraduate students from DKU and other universities, chosen via highly selective peer review process
  • Parallel sessions featuring the work of DKU’s Humanities Research Labs
  • A student film festival curated by Kaley Clements


Keynote Speakers

Oron Catts

Oron Catts is an artist, researcher, designer and curator whose pioneering work with the Tissue Culture and Art Project which he established in 1996 is considered a leading biological art project. In 2000 he co-founded SymbioticA, a biological art research centre at The University of Western Australia. Under Catts’ leadership SymbioticA has gone on to win the inaugural Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Hybrid Art (2007) the WA Premier Science Award (2008) and became a Centre for Excellence in 2008. In 2009 Catts was recognised by Thames & Hudson’s 60 Innovators Shaping our Creative Future book in the category “Beyond Design”, and by Icon Magazine (UK) as one of the top 20 Designers, “making the future and transforming the way we work.” Catts was a Research Fellow in Harvard Medical School, a visiting Scholar at the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor of Design Interaction (2009-2012), and a Professor at Large in Contestable Design (2015-2017) at the Royal College of Arts, London. In 2012-2013 he set up a biological art lab called Biofilia—Base for Biological Art and Design, at the School of Art, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Helsinki, where he was a Visiting Professor. His work was covered by The NY Times, Washington Post, Wired, New Scientist, Time, Newsweek and other media.

Mylan Engel

Mylan Engel is Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. He specializes in epistemology and ethics, with an emphasis on animal ethics, environmental ethics, and global justice. He is lead editor of The Moral Rights of Animals (Lexington Books, 2016) and co-author (with Kathie Jenni) of The Philosophy of Animal Rights: A Brief Introduction for Students and Teachers (Lantern Books, 2010). He has developed a commonsense approach to ethics, which he uses to argue that moderately affluent individuals have a moral obligation to assist the world’s food insecure and to argue that veganism is morally required.

Carmen Tong

Carmen Tong is Lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University. Her research expertise lies in the sociological and ethnographic investigation of schooling and student culture in Hong Kong, and was inspired from her extensive teaching experiences in different higher education institutions there. Her studies explore Hong Kong students’ sexual identities, life visions, and the dynamics of adaptation tactics in the competitive schooling environment. Her recent research has been inspired by the rapidly growing field of human-animal studies and their potential contribution to sociological inquiries, and she teaches a course called Some We Love, Some We Eat: Human-Animal Relationships in the Global Marketplace.

Gabriel Rosenberg

Gabriel N. Rosenberg is Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and History at Duke University. He earned his Ph.D. from Brown University in History. He was the recipient of the Gilbert C. Fite Award from the Agricultural History Society, the K. Austin Kerr Prize from the Business History Conference, and a François André Michaux Fund Fellowship from the American Philosophical Society. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University’s Program in Agrarian Studies, an Early Career Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh’s Humanities Center, and a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. His essays have appeared in journals such as American Quarterly, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, and Diplomatic History.


Friday September 18

1300    Registration Opens, Innovation Building (IB) Lobby

1400    Shuttle from Mercure Hotel to IB Lobby

1430    Opening Ceremony,IB Lecture Hall / Zoom

  • James Miller, Co-Director of the Humanities Research Center (DKU)
  • Carlos Rojas, Co-Director of the Humanities Research Center (Duke)
  • Scott MacEachern, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (DKU)

1445    Keynote Lecture by Oron Catts, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom
Neolife and the HumAnimal

Chair: Carlos Rojas

Neolife—technologically created, manipulated and/or fragmented life forms—may offer the illusion of an opportunity to break free from hegemonic social constructions of bodies, species, gender, race and class; however in most cases these social constructions are inbuilt within and into the developments of these technologies, their interpretations and applications. Through a series of more than human narratives this talk looks at cross kingdoms organisms, and vessels of care and control that are standing for a type of the more than human. It will explore biological exuberance, the process of cell fusion to develop novel organisms defy classifications and Incubators. These concepts and objects stands for Hum/Animal and beyond, and not only serve as a rich, visual and provocative departure for stories about life and biopolitics, they also contest biological determinism, genohype and are a place where the notion of life can be explored from a post anthropocentric perspectives reflecting on past and contestable future scenarios. Examples of art works by Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts will be presented as material evidence of these narratives.

1615      Tea Break

1630A  Student Seminar Hosted by Oron Catts, IB 1056 / Zoom 

Chair: Vivian Xu

Prior registration and reading required

1630B  Student Panel 1: Philosophy and Politics, IB 1050 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Daniel Weissglass

  • Can a Utilitarian Argument Morally Justify the Chinese Government’s Use of Facial Recognition to Monitor its Citizens? (Leonardo Barbàra & Chee Hsien-Yao)
  • Rational Choice Theory: A Study of Gender Inequality and Intersectionality (Hajra Farooqui)
  • On the Border of “Truthfulness”: The Interactive Relation between Political Lying and Discourse Shaping in Political and Philosophical Thoughts of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault (Lan Vo)

1630C  Faculty Panel 1: Labor and Economy, IB 1051 / Zoom

  • The Impact of Marital Status on Job Finding: A Field Experiment in the Chinese Labor Market (Gergely Horvath)
  • Clean Development Mechanism and Knowledge Spillovers: Evidence from Chinese Firm-level Patent Data (Jingbo Cui)
  • Partisan Media and Voters’ Perceptions of the Economy (Lie Philip Santoso)

1630D Faculty Panel 2: China and Globalization, IB 1055 / Zoom ID

  • The American Occupation of China, 1941–1947 (Zach Fredman)
  • Broken Time:  Refugees and Agents of Empathy in the Global Second World War (Kolleen Guy & Jay Winter)
  • Chinese Development Assistance in Africa: Pragmatism, Opportunism, and Legacy (Pippa Morgan)

1800    Dinner, Executive Dining Room

1900    Student Film Festival: Short Films Presentation, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom

The Student Film Festival, curated by Kaley Clements, features the work of student filmmakers at Duke Kunshan University, Duke University, Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University, NYU Shanghai, the Shanghai Vancouver Film School, and the Communications University of Zhejiang.

2130    Shuttle departs from IB lobby to Mercure Hotel

Saturday September 19

0730    Breakfast in Mercure Hotel

0800    Shuttle departs from Mercure Hotel to IB lobby

0830    Keynote Lecture by Mylan Engel, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom ID
Animal Ethics, Sustainability, and Commonsense: Doing Right by Animals and by Ourselves

Chair: Emily MacWilliams

I begin by tracing the history of Western anthropocentric bias from Aristotle to Descartes and identifying the flawed reasoning underlying the “logic” of domination. Next, I draw on the insights of several now-largely-neglected philosophers to develop a commonsense animal ethic grounded in moral principles that we all share. I then point out some important moral implications of these commonsense principles. I conclude by highlighting many of the synergistic benefits of treating animals with the moral consideration they are due. When we do right by animals, we do right by ourselves, we do right by the environment, and we do right by the future inhabitants of the planet. 

1000    Coffee break

1030A  Student Seminar Hosted by Mylan Engel, IB 1056 / Zoom

Chair: James Miller

Prior registration and reading required

1030B  Student Panel 2: Literature and Film, IB1050 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Zairong Xiang

  • Twilight’s Werewolves as a Positive Expression of Female Mormon Societal Fears (Remington Gillis)
  • Nüxia, Monk and the Fire: Vernacular Modernism in the Cave of Silken Spirits (Baomu Song)
  • A Rebellious Reception: The Image of Greeks in Virgil’s Aeneid book 2 (Chenyu Li)
  • Through Western and Eastern Eyes: The Comparative Study on Literature and Utopia Tradition (Zhengxin Lin)
  • Humans’ Potential Desire for System and Order: Little People in Murakami Haruki’s 1Q84 (Zhixin Liu)

1030C  Faculty Panel 3: Politics, Philosophy and Ethics, IB1051 / Zoom

  • Changes of Human-Nature Relations during Pandemic Outbreaks (Wanggi Jaung)
  • Measuring What Matters: Values in Metrics (Daniel Weissglass)
  • Symbolic Mutation and the Political Mythology of Contemporary Authoritarianism (Robin Rodd)
  • Keeping Our Eye on the Ball: Admiration in Morality and Athletics (Kyle Fruh)

1030D Humanities Lab Series 1: Freedom Lab, IB1055 / Zoom
Special Forum on Freedom Voices and Struggles Across the Globe

  • Freedom and Unfreedom: Communal Village, Women’s New Life, and New Society in Republican China (Qian Zhu, Qingyi Yin, Xueyi Liu)
  • Recovering Abolitionist Histories of the Haitian Revolution (Yue Qiu, Henry Stevens, Jesse Olsavsky)
  • Slaves of the Buddha: A modern history of Burmese temple slaves (Bryce Beemer)
  • The Souls of Black Folk: W.E.B Du Bois and Translation in Maoist China (Selina Lai-Henderson)

1200    Lunch, AB Cafeteria

1300A  Student Panel 3: Culture and Media, IB1050 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Xin Zhang

  • Cross Cultural Influences on the Nepali Paubha (Anisha Joshi)
  • Black Box as Mirror: How We Perceive Machine Learning and What It Tells About Ourselves (Wanying He)
  • A Man in Courage and the Nation of Secrets? China Daily and Global Times on Edward Snowden and NSA’s PRISM Programme (Fangyuan Liu)
  • Naturalizing Neoliberalism and Meritocracy through Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds 《绝地求生》(Yiting Zhou)

1300B  Student Panel 4: Philosophy and Ethics, IB1051 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Daniel Weissglass

  • The Philosophy of Paracelsus and Its Embodiment in Modern Medicine (Galiya Kaidarova)
  • We Do Not Need the Definite Definitions of Abstract Words (Yutong Lu)
  • Identity System: The Otherness and the Oppression (Shangyuan Ni)
  • On Aristotle’s Teleological Account of Natural Phenomena as Manifestation of Final Cause (Lanxin Shi)

1300C  Student Panel 5: Literature, IB1055 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Zairong Xiang

  • An Exploration of Online Fanfiction Writing Based on Fan Psychology (Jianing Cai)
  • Animals’ Neighbor: Transcendentalism and Environmentalism in Thoreau’s Writings (Ruihan Wan)
  • Personal Storytelling against Orientalism: Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (Feifan Li)

1300D Student Panel 6: International Relations, IB1056 / Zoom ID

Chair and discussant: Pippa Morgan

  • What the World Owes to Laos (Laura Navarro)
  • Understand Chiang Kai-shek behind the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance from His Diaries (Qi Pan)
  • Orientalism and European Travel Writings in Mughal India in the Seventeenth Century (Yue Qiu)
  • The Relationship between Portugal and the Mughal Empire: Political Conquest and Cultural Transmission (Shuyuan Zhou)

1430    Keynote Lecture by Carmen Tong, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom
A New Reality? Human-Animal Relationships in a Posthumanistic Future

Chair: James Miller

The harsh reality today is that we are living in a world full of human-induced environmental crisis and diseases. We have begun to examine what we have done, and started down alternative paths to find a sustainable future. In spite of that, have we ever asked the most inconvenient question—a sustainable future for whom? Our current endeavor of sustainable goals and paths are formulated according to costs and benefits in human terms. Our vision of the future based on our existing worldview that dichotomizes human vs. nature, and society vs. nature. Could there really be a sustainable future, and again, for whom, when we remain anthropocentric in seeing our relationships with nature and other non-human animals? In this keynote speech, Dr. Carmen Tong will raise fundamental questions behind our current efforts in promoting sustainable development goals, and discuss the implications of such developments on human-animal relationships in a posthumanistic future.

1600    Tea break

1630A  Student Seminar Hosted by Carmen Tong, IB1056 / Zoom

Chair: Kolleen Guy

Prior registration and reading required

1630B  Faculty Panel 4: Literature, Art, Religion, Politics, IB1050 / Zoom

  • Language Traps & Spaces to Crash: Poetry and Counterculture in New York, 1965–71 (Stephanie Anderson)
  • Competing Authenticities in Kunqu Singing (Kim Hunter Gordon)
  • Failure as a Politics of Resistance (Caio Yurgel)
  • Military Martyrdom in Islamic and Christian History (Tommaso Tesei)

1630C  Student Panel 6: Law and Policy, IB1051 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Coraline Goron

  • The Relationship between Foreign Aid and Corruption in Pakistan (Sinan Farooqui)
  • They Heal China’s Sky: The Advocates of the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention and Control Law Revision in 2015 (Shangyi Jiang)
  • Social Credit Systems in China: Does Government Intervention Render the Logic of Surveillance Capitalism Ethical? (Runya Liu)
  • The Comparison of Unconstitutional Review System in Japan and America—Base on the Judicial Negativism in the Practice of System (Zhenzhen Shen)

1630D Student Panel 7: Education and Society, IB1055 / Zoom

Chair and discussant: Xin Zhang

  • The Effect of Confucianism on High School Students’ Learning Motivation (Jiazheng Miao)
  • Birders in China: Moral Ideas behind the Conventional Restrictions of Bird Watching (Winnie Liao)
  • Research on the Design and Promotion of Chinese Characteristic Leveled Reading System—Taking Children’s Books as an Example (Eldar Wang)

1800    Dinner, Executive Dining Room

2000    Shuttle from AB Lobby to Mercure Hotel

Sunday September 20

0730    Breakfast in Mercure Hotel

0800    Shuttle departs from Mercure Hotel to IB lobby

0830    Keynote Lecture by Gabriel Rosenberg, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom
Cruising Nature’s Metropolis: Towards a More-Than-Human History of Sexuality

Chair: Vivian Xu

Do animals have a place in the history of sexuality? The history of sexuality and environmental history are two of the most influential historicist subfields of the last quarter century. Both are fundamentally (and foundationally) structured by critiques of the concept of “nature”: environmental history seeks to trouble the boundary between human societies and an encompassing natural world they stand apart and over, while the history of sexuality queries how different societies have defined and moralized sex through the contingent and changing concepts of the natural. Despite their shared interest in transforming the idea of nature, the two subfields have limited intellectual exchange and dialogue. This talk explores this dilemma, and the structuring assumptions about sexuality and nature that animate it, by examining the account of meat production in historian William Cronon’s field defining work of environmental history, Nature’s Metropolis (1991). The talk contends that the tools of analysis developed by the history of sexuality can fundamentally transform and enrich Cronon’s account. In particular, it urges environmental historians to treat animal sex as historically constituted rather than universal, essential, or natural. The paper concludes, then, by filing a brief for a more-than-human history of sexuality, one that works to understand animal sex as a vital and neglected factor in human interactions with the natural world.

1000    Tea break

1030A  Student Seminar Hosted by Gabriel Rosenberg, IB1056 / Zoom

Chair: Zairong Xiang

Prior registration and reading required

1030B  Faculty Panel 5: Religion and Culture, IB1050 / Zoom

  • Power of the Other: Ethnicity and Religion in Southwest China (Keping Wu)
  • Classed Religion in Urban China (Megan Rogers)
  • Sonic Encounters: The Islamic Call to Prayer (Diana Chester)
  • “We Live In A Bubble”: How Upper-Class Christians Experience ‘Routinized Sectarianism’ In Urban Cairo (Hyun Jeong Ha)

1030C  Faculty Panel 6: Politics, Law and History, IB1051 / Zoom

  • No Politics, Please! When Democracy Promotion Suppresses Political Ambition (Irina Soboleva)
  • What is Normative Democratic Theory For? Beyond Procedural Minimalism (Quinlan Bowman)
  • Forging “Loyalty Steel” in the Cultural Revolution: Industry, State, and the Politics of Production in Maoist China (Zhaojin Zeng)
  • Measuring Polarization in Courts and Legislatures via Networks (Jason Todd)

1030D Humanities Labs Panel 2, IB1055 / Zoom
Health Humanities, Planetary Ethics and Artificial Intelligence (PETAL), Third Space

  • Health Humanities Lab (Benjamin Anderson, Kyle Fruh, Kaley Clements)
  • PETAL: Report on the Self-E project (Kyle Chen, Kangming Dang, Elva Yu)
  • Third Space Lab: Negotiating Third Space Personae: Foreign Professionals in Modern Chinese Workplace (Xin Zhang, Samantha Tsang and Fei Wu)

1200    Lunch, AB Cafeteria

1300    Awards Ceremony for Best Student Papers, IB Lecture Hall / Zoom

1400    Shuttle from IB lobby to Kunshan South Station