FESTIVAL | Unique to Humans? : Rethinking Anthropocentrism

FoD-blockNEWorangeSpeakers: Madeleine Beekman (Sydney), Jean-Paul Gagnon (Melbourne), Dinesh Wadiwel (Sydney)

It has long been accepted that democracy is an inherently human thing. It’s a nice story. But is it true for the entirety of what we humans consider to be democratic behaviour? To what extent is democracy complicit in the human/non-human divide? Can the gap be closed? Is democracy beyond anthropocentrism possible?


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Professor Madeleine Beekman works in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney. She has extensive experience in the fields of behavioural ecology, evolutionary and molecular biology. One of her current research directions is the study of conflict at the organismal level, focusing on insect societies and the acellular slime mould Physarum polycephalum. The hallmarks of research are (1) the innovative use of mathematical and computer simulation models in conjunction with rigorous laboratory and field experiments to address evolutionary and behavioural questions; (2) the use of genetic tools to address behavioural and evolutionary questions.

Dr Jean-Paul Gagnon is a social and political philosopher specializing in democratic theory. He joined the Australian Catholic University in late 2013 as a university postdoctoral research fellow and is based in the School of Arts (Melbourne). He co-edits the Berghahn (Oxford, New York) journal Democratic Theory and also co-edits the Palgrave Macmillan book series The Theories, Concepts and Practices of Democracy (both with Dr Mark Chou). His research focuses on democratic theory – especially non-human democracy, innovations in democracy (like participatory taxation and the ‘democratic economy’), the philosophy of democracy and democratization, and comparative democracy studies. He is the author of Evolutionary Basic Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Democratic Theorists in Conversation: Turns in Contemporary Thought (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

View Jean-Paul Gagnon’s article: ‘If we could talk to animals, what might they tell us about politics?’

Dr Dinesh Wadiwel is a lecturer in human rights and socio-legal studies and Director of the Master of Human Rights. He has previously taught in Sociology and Politics at the University of Western Sydney, Macquarie University and The University of Notre Dame Australia.

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