CFP: CRISPR Genome Editing and Microbiome Reshaping Humanity and the Humanities

Call for Papers

Viral Culture: How CRISPR Genome Editing and the Microbiome are Reshaping Humanity and the Humanities

Date: April 27, 2018 at Pomona College in Claremont, California
Deadline for abstracts: February 23, 2018
(Participants will know of acceptance within one week of the deadline).

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Charissa Terranova, Associate Professor of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas, and author of Art as Organism: Biology and the Evolution of the Digital Image (IB Taurus 2016) and Automotive Prosthetic Mediation and the Car in Conceptual Art (University of Texas 2014) and coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (Routledge 2016) and D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s Generative Influences in Art, Design, and Architecture: From Forces to Forms (Bloomsbury 2019)

Invited Speaker: Dr. Marion Duquerroy, Contemporary Art Historian, HICSA/Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, Professor and Interim Undergraduate Director of Art History, University of Angers

Organizers: Claire Nettleton, Visiting Assistant Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages at Pomona College

Rachel Mayeri, Artist and Professor of Media Studies, Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts at Harvey Mudd College

Pomona College and Harvey Mudd College present a daylong, interdisciplinary symposium on the integration of biotechnology, art, literature, media studies and ethics. Our particular focus will be on the ways in which CRISPR-Cas 9 genome editing and understandings of the microbiome alter our conceptions of what it means to be human. To help our understanding of the impact of these contemporary scientific frameworks, we will also examine the history of biomedical advancement and its relation to artistic and literary innovation.

A revolution in biotechnology, CRISPR-Cas 9 could conceivably represent the end of genetic disease—at least as we know it. The system enables precise genome editing using viral DNA present in bacteria to act as scissors to remove genetic mutations. The ability to translate digital coding into DNA coding and vice versa expresses the interdependence among human innovation, technological tools and nonhuman species within the interconnected scope of the microbiome.

The majority of scholarship on the possible benefits and dangers of CRISPR has occurred in the fields of medicine and genetics—ranging from potentially curing Huntington’s disease to creating designer babies. However, CRISPR—labeled by Berkeley News as “the discovery of the century”— has so far been largely ignored by humanistic scholarship. Scientists have already created animal hybrids (including a human-pig embryo and a rat-mouse) using imagination that rivals that of medieval bestiaries.

Harvard researchers are currently attempting to use CRISPR to resurrect the woolly mammoth, and the inexpensive cost of the technology even allows the general public to access CRISPR. The implications for such experimentation are unknown. An urgent discussion of the potential societal and environmental impact of genome editing and other biotechnological interventions—by artists, writers, scientists, philosophers and the general public— is thus paramount.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: CRISPR art, bioart, the microbiome in art, explanations of CRISPR for non-scientists, biology or medicine in film, the history of medicine, biology or genetics in literature, the social or environmental impact of genetic engineering, CRISPR and animal studies, bioethics, etc.

Please email a 250-word abstract by Friday, February 23rd, 2018 to We plan to publish select presentations in an edited volume. We are not able to provide conference travel funds or give compensation for presentations.