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The Cows of Cambridge

   Every spring, a herd of dark brown cows appears in the commons of Cambridgeshire. The commons, slipping on either side of the river Cam and occasionally between colleges, are grazed to the tune of longer days and warmer weather. Human passersby, as they occasion, sometimes slow down to stare at the scene: a large majestic animal, its eyes wide apart, staring solemnly into the colored horizon.

     In this seminar, we will dwell in the commons. How may the cows of Cambridge - at once natural and hybridic, physical and metaphysical - reflect the mediation of animal life? We will be furnished, in our dwelling, with a few histories: the animal address in Arabic poetry; the structure of Islamic ecology; and stories of mammalian kinship from both sides of the Channel.

 These histories prefigure the modern world: of empire and ownership; of industry and the slaughterhouse; of lives shorn from rhythm and their attendant habits of thought. How may Cambridge, known now for one type of mammal, learn from another? May its cows illuminate the partiality of our own grazing? What would it turn into, then, the erstwhile gaze of the human?

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