337 MacKinnon, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph. N1G 2W1
Karen Houle is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Canada. Her university degrees focused first on biology, then history & philosophy of science, and finally political philosophy. She is the author of numerous articles on the following thinkers: Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Spinoza, Jacques Derrida, & Luce Irigaray, and the following subjects: animality, plant ontology, micropolitics, friendship, copyright, reproductive technology. With Jim Vernon, she has co-edited a book of essays on Hegel and Deleuze (2013, Northwestern). Houle has recently completed a monograph titled Toward a New Image of Thought: Abortion and Complexity (2013, Lexington Press, Outsources Series). She is also the author of two books of poetry: Ballast (published in 2000 by House of Anansi Press) and During (published in 2005 by Gaspereau Press).
2012-2015 SSHRC Insight grant ($88,004) This interdisciplinary research project intends to systematically challenge the normative and conceptual adequacy of ‘The Gift’ discourse as it is widely deployed, formally and informally, in scientific research and medical training involving human cadavers in Canadian biomedical institutions, and in the wider cultural milieu which supports these activities. The project responds to the expressed needs of students and scientists directly involved with human cadavers for a richer ethical conversation. It aims, in conjunction with those stakeholders, to articulate a more adequate normative & conceptual terrain for these practices.
Dr. Houle welcomes applications from prospective MA and PhD students whose area of research interest overlaps significantly with the philosophical topics addressed by her SSHRC grant (ethics and anatomy, science and ethics, poststructural ethics, bioethics, generosity, citizenship, identity and corporeality). Please clearly indicate your interest when you are making your regular application to the Philosophy department. In addition to supervisory capacity in these topic areas, a graduate student working with Houle on this topic under the auspices of the SSHRC grant may be eligible for a modest research fellowship. This stipend has two aims. The first is to support the graduate student financially. The second is to enable the recipient to accompany Houle on, and aid with, an initial phase of field research in Canada, and a latter phase of presenting the findings at professional conferences and at selected medical schools.
Stipulations: The fellowship recipient will: have a well-articulated and relevant research project; be able to travel (in Canada and possibly internationally); and have excellent communication skills. An ideal candidate will also be functionally bilingual. If you are interested in being considered for this research fellowship, please indicate this in your application as well, and include a c.v. with your application.
2001 PhD in Philosophy, University of Guelph Dissertation title: Micropolitics and Property.
1992 MA (History and Philosophy of Science) Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph
1989 BSc (Hons) College of Biological Science, University of Guelph
2008-2012 Team Member: Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. CoPEH-Canada is an adaptive community of scholars and practitioners dedicated to the understanding, teaching and application of ecosystem approaches to address current challenges to a healthy and sustainable global future.
Hegel and Deleuze: Together Again for the First Time eds. Karen Houle and Jim Vernon.
Karen Houle, Toward a New Image of Thought: Abortion and Complexity, Lexington Press “Out Sources” Series.
Karen Houle “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics as Extension or Becoming?” Symposium (Special issue on Ecosophy)
“An Ecohealth Framework for Evaluating Source Water protection, Health and Well-being in the Otonabee River Basin.” This chapter will appear in: L. Hallstrom, ed. Taking the next steps: Sustainability planning, participating and public policy in rural Canada. University of Alberta Press: Edmonton. 2012. (Co-written with Dr. K. Morrison, Population Medicine, University of Guelph).
“Don’t Touch Me, Don’t Eat Me: Linguistic Responsibility as a Matter of Justice in Scientific Practice” Ecohealth: Special Issue of Social Justice and Ecohealth Approaches
"Commentary on Hasana Sharp's Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization" pp. 248-254 in Vol. 7, No. 2 (2012) of PhaenEx ( A special Issue "Living Feeling: Affect, Emotion, and Phenomenology" edited by Lisa Guenther and Ami Harbin):
“Gender-Sex.” In S. McCullagh et al. ed. Ecosystem Approaches to Health Teaching Manual. Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. pp.93-118 CoPEH-Canada (2012).
“Complexity.” in S. McCullagh et al. ed. Ecosystem Approaches to Health Teaching Manual. Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health. pp. 43-69. CoPEH-Canada (2012).
“A Bridge Between Three Forever Irreducible to Each Other(s),” Thinking With Irigaray, Edited by Mary Rawlinson, Sabrina Hom and Serene Khader, pp. 153-175. SUNY Press, (Nov. 2011)
“Micropolitics.” in Charles Stivale, ed. Deleuze: Key Concepts, (Acumen Press, Durham, 2005. 88-97. Revised edition (Acumen, 2011), 103-115.
Upcoming or Recent Presentations:
January 27th: Dear Head: Poetry Reading and Workshop
An early evening amongst the embryos and skeletons of the Ontario Veterinary College. Poetry readings, catered cocktail reception and workshop with poet Nora Gould and friends: Madhur Anand, Karen Houle and David Waltner-Toews. Dear Head is an environmental poetry event which will take participants on a reading tour of the anatomy labs, skeleton displays and pathobiology cabinets of the Ontario Veterinarian College at the University of Guelph. Winding our way through the building, we will end the evening with a cocktail reception and workshop in which the reading and writing experience will be shared with participants.
2012 "Poetic License: What Francis Alys' Visual Art Teaches Philosophers about Politicality" EPTC Keynote at Congress (University of Waterloo), May 30th
2012 “Reckoning with Records.” Intensities and Lines of Flight: Deleuze & Guattari and the Arts (with Ryan Quinn, McGill University) The Centre for Advanced Research in European Philosophy, University of Western Ontario.
2011 “How Spinoza’s Metaphysics Subverts Environmental Ethics as an Exercise in the Extension of Moral Standing,” Spinoza: Feminist Perspectives and Aspects of Embodiment, American University, Washington, D.C.
2011 “Devenir Végetale,” Écosophie. Université de Paris X (Nanterre, la Défense) 2011 “Becoming Plant,” Creation, Crisis, Critique: Fourth International Deleuze Conference, Copenhagen.
2012-2015 SSHRC Insight grant ($88,004)
2010-2011 CIHR, “Meetings, Planning, and Dissemination Program Grant,” ($24,920) “Development of a Pilot Version of an Ecosystem Approaches to Health Training Manual.”
2009 SSHRC, “Aid to Research Workshop and Conferences in Canada Program" ($20,000)
Current Graduate Students:
Suzanne McCullagh's doctoral dissertation considers what it means to conceive of action in terms of capacity. The focus on capacities turns our attention to a broader and more complex set of conditions that contribute to actions. I argue that Hannah Arendt’s theory of action, in the Human Condition and On Revolution, is significantly similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the war machine in Nomadology. The core difference is that Arendt maintains a focus on the individual within a plurality and Deleuze and Guattari point towards heterogeneous processes of individuation. Where Arendt’s theory of action enables us to consider individual action with and within pluralist human communities, it separates humans from non-humans in such a way that we cannot think new relations with the non-human elements of the world. A merit of Deleuze and Guattari’s theory is that it enables us to see actions as arising out of human-non-human assemblages. The locus of agency, however, seems to have become so diffuse that we lose our ability to think of action in ethically and politically significant ways.
Andrew Robinson: The Harms and Benefits of Pornography: An Application of Luce Irigaray's Ethics of Sexual Difference. I offer an original account of Luce Irigaray's ethics of sexual difference as grounded in the existential development of subjects through fecund relationships with one another. I then demonstrate the ways in which dominant forms of gender and sexuality hinder fecund relationships. Turning to Irigaray's analysis of sex work, I demonstrate the harms with which mainstream pornography threatens our existential development, as well as the transformative potential of feminist and queer pornographies.
Lindsay Lerman: Bataille's Nonknowledge: Epistemic Expenditure. Lindsay is working on a book-length description of Georges Bataille's concept of nonknowledge. Her work on nonknowledge and children's literature was recently published as the final chapter in an edited volume titled Philosophy and Children's Literature.
Daniel Harris: Nietzsche, Friendship, and Fate. In bringing together Nietzsche's scattered but numerous remarks on friendship, I try to overcome the view of Nietzsche that has him as heralding some sort of solitary, sovereign individual. Others figure in interesting and integral ways in the type of ethical work Nietzsche would have us do on ourselves.
Joshua Mousie, PhD March 2010-present. Josh's main research interests are modern political philosophy; marxist tradition; latin american politics and philosophy; environmental philosophy. He is currently researching the interrelationship between conceptions of the political and the natural in contemporary political philosophy and how this relates to issues in global politics and postcolonial studies.
Niels Feuerhahn, PhD September 2008 – present. Niels current research focuses on the philosophy of memory, particularly the phenomenon of nostalgia. He is also very interested in the broad field of ethics, especially in animal and environmental ethics.
Recent Doctoral Students (updates):
Matthew Furlong, January 2008 – May 10th, 2011: “Foucault: The Logic of Freedom” Teaching Fellow at University of King’s College, Halifax, NS BA (Vind), MA (Concordia), PhD (Guelph) Faculty Member, Foundation Year Programme, Contemporary Studies Programme. Matthew's doctoral dissertation, which was supervised by Houle, was on the concept of freedom in Michel Foucault's thinking. His master's thesis at Concordia dealt with the relationship between proper names and ethical subjectivity in the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein and of Jacques Derrida. He currently writes a bi-weekly column for the online magazine The Independent titled "In This Present Crisis."
Anthony Vander Schaaf, Sept. 2005 - Feb. 11th, 2010. “Frankenfood Meets the Gastronome: A Philosophical Analysis of Some Ontological and Axiological Aspects of the Genetic Modification of Food.”
Sasa Stankovic PhD. "The Ethics of Kant's Practice: Or Deleuze's Repetition of Kant" (defended March 2012) Sasa currently teaches in the Foundation Year Programme and in the Early Modern Studies Programme at the University of King's College in Halifax. He is working on two articles on Kant's ethics.
Ashlee Cunsolo Willox (SEDR) April 11th, 2012. Co-advised with Dr. K. Landman, “Lament for the Land: On the Impacts of Climate Change on Mental and Emotional Health and Well-being in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Canada” Ashlee Cunsolo Willox holds a BAH in International Development Studies and a PhD from the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph. During her doctoral studies, Ashlee was a SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship scholar. She is a community-engaged social science and health researcher and educator, focusing on the climatic and environmental determinants of Indigenous health, capacity development, environmental ethics, and the social justice and human rights and responsibilities implications of health inequality.
Recent Master's Students (updates):
Douglas Hall, MA. (2010) "Toward a Levinasian Politics of the Animal". Doug is currently entering his third year of the PhD program at the University of Guelph, and is writing his dissertation on Aristotle's notion of phantasia.
Lauren Elliott, MA: (2009) Cosmetic Surgery through Feminist and Cultural Narratives: Shifting the Focus toward Account-Giving within Doctor-Patient Relationality. Lauren’s research analyzed feminist responses to cosmetic surgery and both the cultural and discursive context within which this practice has emerged and proliferated. The practice of cosmetic surgery is an increasingly widespread and pervasive phenomenon in 21st century Western culture, and women are overwhelmingly more likely to pursue elective surgical intervention than men. In light of this gender disparity, feminists have asked whether or not cosmetic surgery ought to be rejected as an inherently oppressive practice, or provisionally accepted as a potential mode of empowerment for some women. Ultimately, Lauren argued that feminists should bracket normative discussions about cosmetic surgery, and respond to the immediate ethical demand posed by the women who already participate in it, by turning next to an analysis of the doctor-patient relationship as this context is the space at which individual and structural injustices intersect.
Lauren is now in her second year of the juris doctor program at Osgoode Hall Law School where her interests include labour and employment, family, and administrative law. She is currently employed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Family Responsibility Office.