Race, time and folded objects

The last meeting of this term will take place at the usual time & place on the 10th July – we’ll continue our discussion about topologies with the help of Amade M’charek’s recent article on folded objects in Theory, Culture & Society.

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‘This Is Some Spooky Shit We Got Here: Strange Topologics in David Lynch’s Lost Highway?

The special guest of our next event will be Bernd Herzogenrath, who’s going to push forward our discussion of topological figures with the help of David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Please note that the meeting will take place on Tuesday the 17th June, between 18.00 and 20.00 in PEG 3G 170.

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Epigenetics, big data and politics

Our special guest this week is Emmanuel Didier, with the help of whom we’ll return to the topologies of databases. The title of his talk (jointly organised by us, Thomas Lemke’s research group, and the Knowledge, Technology, Environment section of the Department of Sociology) is ‘Epigenetics, big data and politics’.

Please note that the talk will take place at 4pm in PEG 1G 107!

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The spatiotemporalities of ruins

So far, we talked about topologies mostly in spatial terms. But what about temporalities? STS has sometimes been accused of ‘presentism’ – of being good at describing events and processes that take place here and now, involving actors that are relatively easy to identify. But what about half-presences, hauntings, and connections that age, decay or fade away? We’ll explore such questions with the help of a special guest, Ann Stoler, and her recent book Imperial Debris.

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Topologies of culture

Last time we talked about topology in rather abstract terms; this time we’ll start discussing what topological analyses might look like in one specific field or another. Our reference point will be a special issue of Theory, Culture & Society on the topologies of culture, especially Evelyn Ruppert’s article on database devices.

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Conversations on topologies

The main theme of the summer term is ‘topology’, and we thought it would be helpful to start by discussing Michel Serres’s take on it. For the first session we’re going to read various excepts (Ch1; pp. 57-62; pp. 93-107) from Michel Serres’s conversation with Bruno Latour, and a short commentary on Serres by Steven Connor.

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Relational ontologies

This is the last meeting of the Winter term, and this time our special guest will be Tahani Nadim from the Natural History Museum in Berlin. We’re going to continue our discussion about relational ontologies with the help of Marsha Rosengarten’s HIV Interventions (particularly the last two chapters.)

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Social ontology and assemblages

To what extent is ontology a good and helpful term for STS scholars? Isn’t it too ‘philosophical’? Do we necessarily have to engage with philosophy, when we explore (even advocate) a shift from epistemology to ontology? If we do, what are the possibilities of productive engagement? These are some of the questions we’re going to discuss with the help of Manuel DeLanda’s chapter about social ontology.

Reference: DeLanda, M. (2006) Deleuzian social ontology and assemblage theory, in Fuglsang, M., & Sørensen, B. M. (eds.), Deleuze and the Social. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 250-266.

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The ontological turn

In this meeting we’ll continue our discussion with the help of various texts from the special issue of SSS about the (alleged) turn to ontology in STS. Among other things, we will compare and contrast different ways of relating to the empirical through Setve Woolgar & Javier Lezaun’s and John Law & Marienne Lien’s papers.

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Ontological politics

In the previous meeting we talked about performativity in an economic context. We did this with the help of Stephen Collier and a written exchange between Judith Butler and Michel Callon. Many of us had the feeling that there was a disconnect between Butler’s and Callon’s texts: in her discussion of performativity Butler somehow missed Callon’s point about the importance of materiality, while Callon somehow missed Butler’s point about critique. Butler argued that it was not enough to say that markets are effects of ongoing performances, one also needs to think about how they could be performed differently – not only by economists, but also by scholars who study them and write about them. If this is a political point, then it’s concerned not simply with epistemology (who knows better how markets work?) but with ontology (what kind of an economic reality is being performed, and how are we implicated in its performance?). The main theme for this week’s – and perhaps this term’s – discussion is going to be ontological politics; background reading is Mario Blaser’s recent article in Current Anthropology.

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