Nathan Brown: The Limits of Fabrication: Materials Science, Materialist Poetics (2017)

13 December 2017, dusan

“Poetry, or poiēsis, has long been understood as a practice of making. But how are experiments in the making of poetic forms related to formal making in science and engineering? The Limits of Fabrication takes up this question in the context of recent developments in nanoscale materials science, investigating concepts and ideologies of form at stake in new approaches to material construction. Tracing the direct pertinence of fields crucial to the new materials science (nanotechnology, biotechnology, crystallography, and geodesic design) in the work of Shanxing Wang, Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, and Ronald Johnson back to the midcentury development of Charles Olson’s ‘objectist’ poetics, Nathan Brown carves out a tradition of constructivist, nonorganic poetics that has developed in conversation with science and engineering.

While proposing a new approach to the relation of technē (craft, skill) and poiēsis (making, forming), this book also intervenes in philosophical debates concerning the concept of the object, the distinction between organic and inorganic matter, theories of self-organization, and the relation between ‘design’ and ‘nature’. Engaging with Heidegger, Agamben, Whitehead, Stiegler, and Nancy, Brown shows that materials science and materialist poetics offer crucial resources for thinking through the direction of contemporary materialist philosophy.”

Publisher Fordham University Press, New York, 2017
ISBN 9780823272990, 0823272990
xi+296 pages
via Memory of the World

Review: Tom Eyers (boundary2, 2017).


PDF (26 MB)

Sophia Roosth: Crafting Life: A Sensory Ethnography of Fabricated Biologies (2010)

25 August 2016, dusan

“This ethnography tracks a diverse set of practices I term ‘constructive biologies,’ by which I mean efforts in the post-genomic life sciences to understand how biology works by making new biological things. I examine five fields of constructive biology – synthetic biology, DIY biology, hyperbolic crochet, sonocytology, and molecular gastronomy – investigating how they are enmeshed in sensory engagements that employ craftwork as a means of grasping biology.

Synthetic biology is a community of bioengineers who aim to fabricate standardized biological systems using genetic components and manufacturing principles borrowed from engineering. DIY biology is a community of “biohackers” who appropriate synthetic biologists’ terminologies, standards, and commitment to freely exchanging biomaterials in order to do hobbyist biological engineering in their homes. The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a distributed venture of thousands of women who are cooperatively fabricating a series of yarn and plastic coral reefs in order to build a material simulation of oceanic morphologies and evolutionary theories. Sonocytology, a technique in nanotechnology research, uses scanning probe microscopes to “listen to” cellular vibrations and “feel” the topologies of cells and cellular components. Molecular gastronomy is a movement in which practitioners – physical chemists and biochemists who study food, and chefs who apply their results – use biochemical principles and laboratory apparatuses to further cooking and the culinary arts.

In analyzing these fields, I draw on histories of experimental biology, anthropological accounts of artisanship, science studies work on embodiment and tacit knowledge in scientific practice, and sensory ethnography. Based on data gathered from participant-observation and interviewing, I argue for thinking about making new biological things as a form of ‘crafting,’ an analytic that illuminates five aspects of contemporary biological manufacture: 1) sensory cultivation, 2) ongoing participation with biological media and forms, 3) the integration of making biological things and practitioners’ selfmaking, 4) the embedding of social relations, interests, norms, and modes of exchange in built artifacts, and 5) the combination of making and knowing. In this study, I argue that both biology the substance and biology the discipline are currently being remade, and that increasingly, life scientists apprehend ‘life’ through its manufacture.”

Dissertation thesis
Supervisor: Stefan Helmreich
Publisher Massachussetts Institute of Technology, September 2010
326 pages


PDF (24 MB)