Dehumanization: New approaches to understanding the politics of human nature

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 1:00pm to Friday, April 8, 2016 - 1:45pm

Dehumanization: New approaches to understanding the politics of human nature

The international and interdisciplinary conference "Dehumanization: New approaches to understanding the politics of human nature" brings historians, scientists, philosophers and artists together in order to discuss the phenomenon of dehumanization. The need for such an interdisciplinary setting arises since scientific literature on dehumanization ignores by and large philosophical debates on human nature and essences; at the same time, philosophical literature on the concept of human nature (and the underpinning essentialism) by and large ignores scientific dehumanization studies (even if dehumanization is mentioned as an issue). If the two are brought together, tensions become visible. Both areas rarely consult historical literature on ‘human nature,’ ‘essence’ and actual historical cases of dehumanization in science, society and art. Finally, artists often address the issue in their works and try to rehumanize people through art.

The conference is meant as a first step to bring the four perspectives – the historical, the scientific, the philosophical and the artistic – into a constructive dialogue. Historically the conference will concentrate on the modern era. At issue will be whether and how one guiding categorical divide – animal/human – has been conceptually and socially traversed and used to dehumanize or rehumanize people in science, society and art from roughly the 18th century onwards.

Abstracts as well as the program are available for download at the bottom of the page.

The conference report is available here.
For the conference photos visit our Flickr site.
Watch our Dehumanization slam poetry art performance on Youtube.


Wednesday, April 06
Contexts of dehumanization


Welcome - Maria Kronfeldner (Central European University) and András Mink (Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archive)

Introduction – Maria Kronfeldner (Central European University)


18th Century and the Concept of ‘Wild’ in Europe – Carla Lessing, National University of Ireland


Philosophical Anthropology in Nazi Germany – Johannes Steizinger, University of Vienna

coffee break


The Human Beast: the American Search for Human Nature during the Cold War – Erika Milam, Princeton University


Attempts to Make Dehumanization Visible – Lukas Einsele, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

snack break (for speakers and local contributors only)


Film “Enjoy Poverty” (90min) by Renzo Martens, followed by discussion with Irina Botea, artist in residence, IAS-CEU, and Lukas Einsele, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Thursday, Apr 07
Contexts of dehumanization


Human Aliens on Display: 1850-1940 – Guido Abbattista, University of Trieste


De Jure Dignity and De Facto Dehumanization of Asylum Seekers – Magdalena Smieszek, Central European University

coffee break


Hate Crime and Hate Speech as Forms of Dehumanization – Gerald Posselt, University of Vienna


General discussion on contexts of dehumanization (with comments by local contributors: Laszlo Kontler (history) and Andres Moles (political sciences/philosophy)

lunch break

The social psychology of dehumanization


Varieties of Dehumanization: A Psychological Overview – Nick Haslam, University of Melbourne


Objectification: Determinants and Measurements – Friederike Eyssel, Bielefeld University

coffee break


The Automatic Dehumanization of Refugees: Causes and Consequences – Victoria Esses, University of Western Ontario


Dehumanization and Moral Standing – Edouard Machery, University of Pittsburgh


General discussion on the science of dehumanization (with comments from local contributors Prem Rajaram (anthropology) and and Hyaesin Yoon (gender studies)

conference dinner

Friday, Apr 08
Debating conceptual intricacies


Appraisal of People as Dehumanization – Eyja M. Brynjarsdóttir and Gunnar Sigvaldason, University of Iceland


Dehumanisation as the Wrong of Social Injustice – Mari Mikkola, Humboldt University

coffee break


Metaphysical Boundary Policing – David Livingstone Smith, University of New England


General Discussion on Conceptual Intricacies (with comments by local contributor Andres Moles (political sciences/philosophy) and Simon Rippon (philosophy)


Summary and Outlook: Art Slam on Dehumanization – Peter Molnar (media and communication) and a Map for the Future Directions towards Understanding Dehumanization – Maria Kronfeldner

The conference is organized by Maria Kronfeldner (Philosophy, Central European University), part of the project ToPHSS, financed by the CEU Humanities Initiative, by the CEU Conference and Academic Event Fund, hosted and also financed by the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA).