Saturday, April 05, 2008

"Giving Voice to Other Beings," Vanderbilt University, May 2-4, 2008.

Few would contest the claim that formal democratic institutions are failing us politically. Inconvenient voices are often marginalized, and representation is all too easily gamed or corrupted. But there is an alternative to despair: to resuscitate and develop the grassroots conversations and connections through which we can come to respond to the needs of all our neighbors. In the case of the non-human stakeholders on the planet, we never had the illusion of democratic participation, but the possibilities of informal listening, noticing, engagement, conversation and even representation are no less compelling. We may not be able to establish a parliament of all beings, or an ecological democracy, but do not other species, tribes of a quite different ilk, make claims on us for systematic respect and consideration? As the rate of species extinction accelerates, and the web of life begins to come apart, what once looked like an ethical option is starting to look like a condition for our own survival. This interdisciplinary conference will look at questions of representation (religious, legal, literary, philosophical), along with the whole range of our communication and engagement with non-humans, and with the ethical and 'spiritual' dimensions of these questions. For further information, please visit:

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