The Cows of Cambridge

     Every spring, a herd of dark brown cows appear 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, too, 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 might the cows of Cambridge - at once natural and hybridic, physical and metaphysical - illuminate the mediation of our own lives? We will be furnished, in our dwelling, with a few histories: the animal address in Arabic poetry; the logic 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 might Cambridge, known now for one type of mammal, know from another? May knowledge of this sort help us out of our current crises? What might it turn into, then, the gaze of the erstwhile human?