Filed under thesis | Tags: · anthropology, bioengineering, biology, diy biology, fabrication, gastronomy, life, sensory ethnography
“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.”
Supervisor: Stefan Helmreich
Publisher Massachussetts Institute of Technology, September 2010
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Filed under book | Tags: · anthropology, body, cinema, ethnography, film, image, knowledge, language, life, movement, philology, philosophy, rhythm, sensation, sensory ethnography
“Both a vital theoretical work and a fine illustration of the principles and practice of sensory ethnography, this much anticipated translation is destined to figure as a major catalyst in the expanding field of sensory studies.
Drawing on his own fieldwork in Brazil and Japan and a wide range of philosophical, literary and cinematic sources, the author outlines his vision for a ‘modal anthropology’. François Laplantine challenges the primacy accorded to ‘sign’ and ‘structure’ in conventional social science research, and redirects attention to the tonalities and rhythmic intensities of different ways of living. Arguing that meaning, sensation and sociality cannot be considered separately, he calls for a ‘politics of the sensible’ and a complete reorientation of our habitual ways of understanding reality.”
First published as Le social et le sensible: introduction à une anthropologie modale, Téraèdre, Paris, 2005.
Translated by Jamie Furniss
With an Introduction by David Howes
Publisher Bloomsbury, London, 2015
Sensory Studies series, 1
ISBN 1472534808, 9781472534804
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Filed under journal | Tags: · archive, art, digital humanities, ethnography, film, history of technology, media archeology, media art, photography, sensory ethnography, sociology, sound, video, visual anthropology
Sensate is a peer-reviewed, issueless, open-access, media-based journal for the creation, presentation, and critique of innovative projects in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Its mission is to provide a scholarly and artistic forum for experiments in critical media practices that expand academic discourse by taking us beyond the margins of the printed page. Fundamental to this expansion is a re-imagining of what constitutes a work of scholarship or art.
Editors-in-Chief: Lindsey Lodhie, Peter McMurray, Joana Pimenta, and Elizabeth Watkins
Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license