German Ph.D. Student Christian Schuetz has been awarded the 2022 Austrian Studies Association Graduate Student Essay Prize for his paper “Assimilation as Abjection: Subjectivity Formation and Self-Fetishization Against the Anthropological Difference in Franz Kafka’s ‘Ein Bericht für eine Akademie’”. The award comes with a cash prize and a year’s membership to the Austrian Studies Association, as well as a subscription to the Journal of Austrian Studies, where his essay will be published in the coming year.
(Un-) Making the Human
Explorations of an Embattled Category in the Austrian Context
The limits and boundaries of human subjectivity have been interrogated, explored, redefined, and challenged throughout history. The question of what it means and takes to be human is inextricably linked to negotiations of individual freedom, ethical responsibility and care, as well as to structures of power, violence, and oppression. While debates about the ‘human condition’, often tied to explorations of binary taxonomies such as nature-culture or mind-body, have long been at the centre of philosophical inquiry, the last decades have seen a growing awareness of the destructive effects of human exceptionalism and anthropocentrism. At the same time, the theoretical concept of the ‘Anthropocene’, describing the ongoing era in which human activities started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems, necessarily retains the notion of human agency and responsibility. Moreover, it has been highlighted that the environmental crisis must be considered in its relation to social inequality, as well as to racial, colonial, and patriarchal forms of domination.
For our annual Journal of Austrian Studies Graduate Student Essay Prize 2022, we invited submissions that critically examine how the definitory lines around the category ‘human’ were drawn, redrawn, and blurred in Austrian history, literature, and culture. How have events and attitudes in Austrian history influenced violent discourses and practices of dehumanization, and how have they shaped definitions of humanness? How have Austrian artists, writers, and thinkers contributed to the conceptualization or deconstruction of humanness? In what ways can scholarship on Austrian history, literature, and culture offer insights for urgent current debates around the blurred lines between human and natural history, human and non-human animals, or between human and technology? Does archival research in the Austrian context offer region- and/or culture-specific insights on the interrelations between ecological and social change?