Decodings Fall 2023 (October 31 edition)


Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Newsletter                     

Fall 2023, Vol. 33, No.41 (October 31 edition)

*SLSA 2023: Alien, Arizona State University

*Election Results: Incoming Members-at-Large

*Executive & Business Meeting Notes
*SLSA Awards: Essay, Book, Lifetime and Travel Stipends
*Social Media Liaisons
* Policies:Respectful Behavior and Freedom of Speech & Call for Ombudspersons
*New Book Series: Proximities: Experiments in Nearness

*AnthropoScene Book Series

*European Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts

SLSA 2023: Alien, Arizona State University, October 26-29

Thanks are due to Adam Nocek and Stacey Moran who hosted the annual SLSA meeting, sponsored by the Center for Philosophical Technologies in the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at Arizona State University, Tempe AZ. The theme was “Alien,” and the meeting took place October 26-29, 2023.
Keynote speakers were Karen Barad, Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Walker:

More than 300 participants presented papers, exhibits, or remarks on plenary panels. Art exhibitions were curated by DB Bauer, Luke Kautz, and Erika Hanson, and Jaime Kirtz and Silvia Neretti served as operations coordinators. The Alien organizational team did a fantastic job of overseeing a wide variety of program contributions.

10/27/23 Executive Committee Notes: Paula Leverage of Purdue University and Shane Denson of Stanford University are incoming members-at-large and began to serve two-year terms, which will conclude in fall 2025. The executive committee congratulated the 2023 conference organizers and begin to plan the 2024 conference with Rajani Sudan. The next executive meeting will be held virtually in December on a date to be announced.

10/28/23 Business Meeting Notes: President David Cecchetto indicated that he and Arielle Saiber have received many submissions for the Proximities book series based at the University of Minnesota Press and that they anticipate the first volume being published soon; see below for a series description. He thanked Adam Nocek and Stacey Moran for the great success of the 2023 conference. Carol Colatrella distributed the financial report.
    Rajani Sudan announced the next conference will be sponsored by Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, during October  2024 on dates to be announced. She plans that the conference theme will consider highlight climate change and post-coloniality and will soon issue a call for papers.

    The membership present voted overwhelmingly to approve the new Bylaws; see text at
The remainder of the meeting included presentations of prizes and a special commendation.

The Bruns Essay Prize: The Bruns Graduate Essay Prize, presented in honor of Kate Hayles’s parents, is awarded annually to the best essay written by a graduate student member of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. Kate presented the 2023 award of $500 to Henry Osman, and she read this commendation: In his essay “Pure Hardware, or Affect and Ideology on the Analog Circuit,” Henry Neim Osman analyzes the history of neuromorphic computing by interrogating the papers and research of Carver Meads’ development of the neuromorphic chip. Filled with insightful analysis of Meads’ assumptions and research design, Osman makes clear that his purpose is not so much the details of the chip but rather its epistemological underpinnings and the influence of its specific materiality on its development.  Especially noteworthy is his tracing of Meads’ claim not only to re-create the cognitive processes of the human brain but also to simulate the affective responses of the brain-gut axis.  He shows that Meads, taking as his inspiration the child who learns first through sensory experience rather than abstract thought, sought to build cognition from the bottom up rather than top-down, using material connections between synapses within the chip to create an analogue model of the way that a child learns gradually to understand the “blooming, buzzing confusion” of the world as he first experiences it.  Osman’s essay is exemplary in balancing original historical research with deep insight into the larger epistemological and ideological issues.”

The Schachterle Essay Prize: Lance Schachterle, founding president of the society, has established an annual prize of $250 in honor of his parents to recognize the best new essay on literature and science written in English by a nontenured scholar. David Cecchetto presented the $250 prize to Nathaniel Otjen for his essay

“Habituated Knowledges: The Entanglements of Science, Species, and Selfhood,” which was published in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies in October 2022. Judges Blake Leland and Jennifer Tuttle provided this commendation: This essay in feminist science studies stands out for its interdisciplinarity and the interventions it makes across the disciplines of autobiography studies, environmental humanities (itself an interdisciplinary field), and biological sciences. The author explores how a generation of female field primatologists reconceived the concept and practice of habituation, challenging anthropocentric and androcentric notions of what constitutes science and selfhood; they thus reframed primatology, the author argues, as “autobiographical practice at the species level,” rendering their field “a relational and cooperative practice that remade the boundaries of science, species, and selfhood.” This work, and its implications for multispecies justice, is especially welcome in an era when the devastations of the Anthropocene are becoming increasingly stark, as it models ways to rethink textual and scientific practices so as to “establish mutually livable worlds for humans and nonhumans alike.” 

SLSA Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize: SLSA holds an annual competition for the Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize awarded each year to the best academic book on literature, science, and the arts published by an SLSA member. Established in the fall of 2006 in memory of Michelle Kendrick of Washington State University-Vancouver, an energetic, well-loved scholar of literature and science and long-time member of SLSA, the Kendrick Prize is open to any book of original scholarship on literature, science, and the arts. There was an honorable mention to Kevis Goodman for her book Pathologies of Motion: Historical Thinking in Medicine, Aesthetics and Poetics (Yale UP, 2023), an original study of late Enlightenment aesthetics, poetics, and environmental medicine as overlapping ways of comprehending the dislocations of historical existence lodged in the movements of bodies and minds. This book studies later eighteenth-century medicine, aesthetics, and poetics as overlapping forms of knowledge increasingly concerned about the relationship between the geographical movements of persons displaced from home and the physiological or nervous “motions” within their bodies and minds. Looking beyond familiar narratives about medicine and art’s shared therapeutic and harmonizing ideals, this book explores Enlightenment and Romantic-era aesthetics and poetics in relation to a central but less well-known area of eighteenth-century environmental medicine: pathology.

David Cecchetto presented the 2023 Kendrick Book Prize to Orit Halpern and Robert Mitchell, The Smartness Mandate (MIT Press, 2023), reading this commendation: Smart phones. Smart cars. Smart homes. Smart cities. The imperative to make our world ever smarter in the face of increasingly complex challenges raises several questions: What is this “smartness mandate”? How has it emerged, and what does it say about our evolving way of understanding—and managing—reality? How have we come to see the planet and its denizens first and foremost as data-collecting instruments?  In The Smartness Mandate, Orit Halpern and Robert Mitchell radically suggest that “smartness” is not primarily a technology, but rather an epistemology. Through this lens, they offer a critical exploration of the practices, technologies, and subjects that such an understanding relies upon—above all, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The authors approach these not simply as techniques for solving problems of calculations, but rather as modes of managing life (human and other) in terms of neo-Darwinian evolution, distributed intelligences, and “resilience,” all of which have serious implications for society, politics, and the environment.

Special Commendation: At the 2023 SLSA meeting, Hugh Crawford presented the following remarks in honor of the late Bruno Latour (June 22, 1947 – October 8, 2022), who had been nominated for a Lifetime Award before he died:

Almost 20 years ago, in The Politics of Nature, Bruno Latour wrote the call for papers for the 2023 SLSA conference: “We no longer expect from the future that it will emancipate us from all our attachments; on the contrary, we expect that it will attach us with tighter bonds to more numerous crowds of aliens who have become full-fledged members of the collective that is in the process of being formed”

It is not surprising that he could, even then, describe our concerns with such accuracy as, in many ways, he was always with us. Although I think he only attended two SLSA events— Portland 1990 and Paris in 2004– his thought was never far. In the early years of the society there was a strong desire that our work be accessible to all participants—scientists as well as science and technology studies and media scholars. The overall intellectual landscape of those years was characterized by the supposed impregnability of French High Theory, so Latour’s work, while densely argued (and I admit also full of incomprehensible diagrams) was accessible and, more to the point, useful. Following his philosophical mentor Gilles Deleuze, Latour put together a philosophical toolbox full of concepts ready to hand and just as readily discarded when no longer needed.

If you look back over his long career, there is clear continuity, but his primary concerns did shift over time in a way that parallels many of the interests of SLSA. Early on his laboratory research following scientists in action or his re-articulation of technology studies through an unbuilt Paris metro gave us useful and innovative approaches. Later his work decolonizing science in We Have Never Been Modern along with his reframing the politics of science throughout the “science wars” and his “Parliament of Things” brought for all of us an increased conceptual and methodological rigor.

His work and collaborations are too varied to rehearse here, so I’ll just make two final parallels. His late turn to critical zone studies— to writing philosophy in the shadow of the Anthropocene or what he calls the New Climactic Regime— is providing a whole new range of conceptual tools for those trying to think in that shadow. And often unremarked are the numerous exhibitions he curated. SLSA was originally just SLS, but, as is overwhelmingly evident in recent conferences, the A has become central to our concerns. Indeed, were he here I think rather than a talk, Latour would have requested exhibition space. That’s a nice thought, I wish he were here accepting this well-deserved honor.

SLSA Travel Awards were presented to Jackson Cooper, Sasha Crawford-Holland, Emma de Beus, Hank Gerba, Alice Gibson, Minji Huh, Hugo Idarraga Franco,  Garrett Johnson, Luna Loganayagam, Nat Mengist, Lauren Mitchell, Márton Orosz, Samuel Pizelo, Adrian Salgado, Kendra Lee Sanders, Douglas Stark, Emre Sumter, Rebecca Uliasz

SLSA NSF Travel Awards will be made available to Elizabeth Berman, Danielle Ada Correll, Sasha Crawford-Holland, Emma de Beus, Jenny Andrin Evang, Hank Gerba, Minji Huh, Hugo Idarraga Franco, Garrett Johnson, Amanda Macedo, Henry Osman, Samuel Pizelo, Adrian Salgado, Jacob Sokolov, and Misha Stekl.


Wayne Miller, Electronic Resources Coordinator, asks for new images for the SLSA website homepage ( Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal and Ed Chang are developing SLSA social media. SLSA members interested in contributing to social media on behalf of the society are encouraged to email Ed ( and Ranjodh (

POLICIES ADOPTED: Respectful Behavior and Freedom of Speech & Call for Ombudspersons

The updated policies are posted here:

Any member interested in volunteering to serve as ombudsperson, should apply by emailing Carol Colatrella (; include a short statement of why you are interested in serving in this role and what experience you can bring the position. Current officers will review applications to make appointments.

Role of SLSA Ombudsperson                                                            

Each Ombudsperson is an impartial entity who strives to see that SLSA members and SLSA conference attendees are treated fairly and equitably. Any member/attendee can seek the advice of an Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson is impartial, neutral, and confidential. The rights and interests of all parties to disputes are considered, with the goal of achieving fair outcomes. The primary responsibilities of the Ombudsperson are:

  1. To work with individuals to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts and problematic issues or concerns.
  2. To bring concerns about the organization to the attention of leadership for resolution.

Ombudspersons: Marcel O’Gorman ( and Kari Nixon (

NEW SLSA BOOK SERIES Proximities: Experiments in Nearness, from University of Minnesota Press: Adjacencies abound. We are past the moment of merely thinking in terms of how opposites attract and nodes network. Today, disciplines and fields move consciously proximate to one another, in conversation and growing together. Further, the future is no longer sometime in the distance, but appears near to us, often grasped as an impending horizon of political, social, economic, and environmental catastrophe. Now more than ever, so much is so close. See the Call for Proposals ( for more information. Books in the Proximities series think proximately, that is, in disciplinary tandem, about the relationships within and between the arts, literature, and science, as well as how scholarship can best be in active dialogue with communities and the world around us today, and in the future. Published in association with the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, this series not only thinks across disciplines, but thinks about the continuities and crossings themselves, interrogating how and why their disciplinary proximities matter. Proximities publishes work that is crafted with nearness in mind: human nearness to one another and the world around us; nearness to one another’s thoughts; to our written and unwritten pasts; to critical trends and crises; to our futures ahead. This kind of scholarship powerfully catalyzes awareness of what it means to work interdisciplinarily by challenging assumptions about disciplinary thinking from the outside in, and the inside out. If interested in submitting a proposal, please contact the editors with a short description of your book project.
Series Editors: David Cecchetto—York University (Toronto, Canada) and Arielle Saiber—Johns Hopkins University

ANTHROPOSCENE: PREVIOUS SLSA BOOK SERIES, PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS AnthropoScene is a book series from Penn State University Press, published in collaboration with the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. While not all scientists have accepted the term “anthropocene” as part of the geological timescale, the idea that humans are changing the planet and its environments in radical and irreversible ways has provoked new kinds of cross-disciplinary thinking about relationships among the arts, human technologies, and nature. This is the broad, cross-disciplinary basis for books published in the series. Books in this series include specialized studies for scholars in a variety of disciplines as well as widely accessible works of interest to broad audiences. Send questions to: Kendra Boileau, Assistant Director and Editor‐in‐Chief, at Or contact the SLSA liaison for the series, Pamela Gossin at or

AnthropoScene: The SLSA Book Series
Electromagnetism and the Metonymic Imagination by Kieran Murphy
Love in a Time of Slaughters: Human-Animal Stories Against Genocide and Extinction by Susan McHugh
Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times
. Edited by Tobias Menely and Jesse Oak Taylor
Editing the Soul: Science and Fiction in the Genome Age by Everett Hamner
The Art of Identification  Eds. Rex Ferguson, Melissa M. Littlefield, and James Purdon
Fear and Nature: Ecohorror Stories from the Anthropcene. Eds. Christy Tidwell and Carter Soles
Fragments from the History of Loss by Louise Green
Oil Fictions. Eds. Stacey Balkan and Swaralipi Nandi.
Under the Literary Microscope. Eds. Sina Farzin, Susan M. Gaines, and Roslynn D. Haynes

SLSA Member Discount from Penn State University Press: Use promo code NR21 for 30% off AnthropoScene titles purchased directly, plus free domestic shipping and discounts on foreign shipping!

The EUROPEAN Society for Literature, Science, and the Art is the sister organization of the international, USA-based Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. SLSAeu welcomes colleagues in the humanities, the social sciences, the arts, and all fields of science, medicine, engineering, and computer sciences as well as independent scholars, artists, and scientists. The last meeting of SLSAeu was hosted by the Center for Literature and Natural Science in Erlangen, Germany, was held May 18-21, 2023. 
     The International Conference of Three Societies on Literature and Science willbe held with two other science societies in Birmingham (UK), 10-12 April 2024. See
    For 2024, the annual conferences of the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu) the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS), together with the biennial conference of the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit), will be combined into a single meeting. This will be the first time that these three societies have joined together to share research at the many intersections of literature and science.
    Please send proposals to by 18:00 (UK time) on Friday 1 December 2023. Proposals should be up to 250 words for individual papers or up to 750 words for a panel. Please include a biography of up to 50 words per speaker and specify whether you hope to attend the conference in person or online. Proposals will be evaluated by a panel drawn from all three societies.
   The conference fee will be waived for two graduate students in exchange for written reports on the conference, to be published in the BSLS newsletter. If you are interested in being selected for one of these awards, please mention this when sending in your proposal. To qualify you will need to be registered for a postgraduate degree at the time of the conference.
   See more details at the conference website.


President: David Cecchetto, York University, Toronto (

Executive Director: Carol Colatrella, Georgia Institute of Technology (
First Vice-President: Rajani Sudan, Southern Methodist University (

Second Vice-President: Adam Nocek, Arizona State University (

Members-at-Large: Joshua DiCaglio (2021-23); Anne Hudson Jones (2021-23); Amanda K. Greene (2022-24),

             Paula Leverage (2023-25), Shane Denson (2023-25).
Graduate Student Liaisons: Ben Platt (, Elana Maloul (

Configurations Editors: Melissa Littlefield, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Rajani Sudan, 

            Southern Methodist University. Configurations Email address:
Configurations Book Review Editor: Jeffrey Karnicky, Department of English, 2505 University Avenue,
            Drake University, Des Moines, IA 50311. Email:
Publications Committee: Pamela Gossin; Raymond Malewitz; Bruce Clarke

Electronic Resources Coordinator: Wayne Miller (

Arts Liaisons: Dennis Summers (; Maria Whiteman (
Social Media Liaisons: Ed Chang (; Adriana Knouf (; Ranjodh
           Singh Dhaliwal (

Ombudspersons: Marcel O’Gorman ( and Kari Nixon (
Past Presidents: Marcel O’Gorman, University of Waterloo; Ron Broglio, Arizona State University; Robert Markley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Laura Otis, Emory University; Richard Nash, Indiana University; Alan Rauch, University of North Carolina-Charlotte; Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University; Eve Keller, Fordham University; Jay Labinger, California Institute of Technology; T. Hugh Crawford, Georgia Tech; Susan Squier, Penn State; Sidney Perkowitz, Emory University; Stuart Peterfreund, Northeastern University; James J. Bono, SUNY-Buffalo; N. Katherine Hayles, Duke University; Mark Greenberg, Drexel University; Lance Schachterle, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Stephen J. Weininger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
The Executive Director can be reached at (404) 894-1241 or
Postal address: Carol Colatrella, Executive Director, SLSA, School of Literature, Media, and Communication,
              Georgia Institute of Technology, 686 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA  30332-0165

SLSA websites: and