Translation Beyond the Human

February 3, 2017 (Friday) / 10:00 am4:15 pm

Kislak Center, 6th fl, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, 3420 Walnut Street

Translation Beyond the Human


Is the act of translation exclusively human? How can thinking through translation help us understand the ever-shifting, historically and politically contingent category of “the human”? This daylong colloquium, with a keynote address by Columbia University’s Lydia Liu, will feature speakers exploring acts of translation involving objects, machines, plants, animals, and other animate forces.

Traversing historical periods, geographic regions, and academic disciplines, our aim is to consider how the 2016-17 Penn Humanities Forum on Translation can illuminate current debates across the humanities about the shifting and unstable boundaries of the human in relationship to non-human others.

Colloquium organizers: PHF Graduate Research Assistant Lily KassPHF Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows Susie Hatmaker, Leon Hilton, Judith Kaplan, Brian LongAvery Slater; and PHF Graduate Fellows Jacqueline BurekAli Karjoo-Ravary.


10:15-11:00am | KEYNOTE

Lydia Liu (Columbia University)
The Place of Number in Translation 
Thinking through translation allows us to reflect on the threshold of meaning and non-meaning in language. What is the place of number—meaningful or otherwise—in our understanding of translation? In her keynote address, Professor Liu will reassess the relationship of number and letter in the development of digital media and explore the role of noise, randomness, and non-meaning in general that are integral to all practices of translation, be it old media and new media.

11:30am-12:30pm | PANEL 1
Machines of Language and Labor in a Global Age

Raja Adal (University of Pittsburgh)
“The Benefits of Loss in Translation: Typewriters and the Global History of Mediation Between the Hand and the Word”

Tung-Hui Hu (University of Michigan)
“Spam Work: Digital Labor and Cory Arcangel's Untitled Translation Exercise“ 

Respondent: Naomi Waltham-Smith (University of Pennsylvania) 

Chair: Susie Hatmaker (University of Pennsylvania)

1:30–2:30pm | PANEL 2
Sensation and Transformation

Pearl Brilmyer (University of Pennsylvania)
“Spontaneous Generations of Character from Realism to Modernism” 

Amanda Jo Goldstein (Cornell University) 
“‘Industrial Attraction’: Climate and Collaboration in Socialist Utopia” 

Respondent: Emily Steinlight (University of Pennsylvania)

Chair: Avery Slater (University of Pennsylvania, University of Toronto) 

3:00-4:00pm | PANEL 3
Angels, Dolls, and Disability

Julia Watts Belser (Georgetown University)
“Improv and the Angel: Jewish Narrative, Disability Dance, and Queer/Crip Intimacies”

Eunjung Kim (Syracuse University)
“Unbecoming Human: Category-Crossing and Disability” 

Respondent: Leon Hilton (University of Pennsylvania)

Chair: Judy Kaplan (University of Pennsylvania)



Alessandro Pezzati (Penn Museum)
"Can't Compute: Early Penn Museum Computer Projects, 1960s-1980s"