Bruno Latour is a troll. A very interesting, witty and often brilliant troll, I grant you but a troll nonetheless. Earlier this year he was in Dublin and gave two different talks. The first, at Dublin City University on Friday, February 17th, was given at a special seminar on interdisciplinarity, the arts and the sciences. The talk, entitled ‘From Critique to Composition’, addresses nature, science and climate. We need, he says, to shift our thinking about these matters from one of ‘critique’ to one of ‘composition’ and change matters of fact (back) in to matters of concern. The seminar, and Prof Latour’s trip to Ireland, was organised by the Celsius interdisciplinary research group at DCU, the French Embassy and the Science Gallery, and also to Trispace, DCU. The second talk, ‘Reenacting Science’, was delivered at Science Gallery, Trinity College a few days later. Some aspects of the talk are covered in this paper.
I recommend both but the second is more typically a lecture, with slides etc. It is perhaps composed a little better.
While the festival of samhain may be over, and as the West slips somewhat grudgingly into the darker half of the annual cycle, there may be a few theory-type zombies remaining with a thirst for braaains. In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist may help satiate their need for a time. In this talk he explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. The talk is based on his influential book of last year, The Master and His Emissary (2010). The full, 30 minute lecture is here for those interested. The introduction to the book, for those really interested is here, where he writes that the overall thesis of the book is:
that for us as human beings there are two fundamentally opposed realities, two different modes of experience; that each is of ultimate importance in bringing about the recognisably human world; and that their difference is rooted in the bihemispheric structure of the brain. It follows that the hemispheres need to co-operate, but I believe they are in fact involved in a sort of power struggle, and that this explains many aspects of contemporary Western culture (McGilchrist, 2010, p.3).
The book sounds fascinating but, at over 600 pages, I simply will not get to it in the next 12 months. Which is why I like the RSA Animate series so much. Perhaps you will. Enjoy.
I have been away for a few days, attending the 10th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA, 2011) in Geneva. I will post on this topic next week (I hope!). While I was away, the website for the Histories of Violence project at the university of Leeds went live. This is a trans-disciplinary, multi media project, dedicated to addressing the theoretical, empirical and aesthetic dimensions to violence, and particularly political violence. There are sections on different approaches to these issues, such as art, film, theatre, literature. However, what most interests me here is the section on theory.
This section features key-note lectures by key thinkers on key thinkers, and includes short biographies, along with selected bibliographies. The list of contributors here includes:
- Hannah Arendt (Professor Kimberley Hutchings, LSE)
- Zygmunt Bauman (Professor Keith Tester, University of Hull)
- Judith Butler (Dr. Jelke Boesten, University of Leeds)
- Jacques Derrida (Professor Gregg Lambert, Syracuse University)
- Frantz Fanon (Professor Lewis Gordon, Temple University)
- Michel Foucault (Emeritus Professor Michael Dillon, Lancaster University)
- Niccolo Machiavelli (Dr. Elizabeth Frazer, Oxford University)
- Friedrich Nietzsche (Professor Julian Reid, University of Lapland)
- Paul Virilio (Dr. Mark Lacy, Lancaster University)
- Slavoj Žižek (Dr. Paul Taylor, University of Leeds)
In addition, in the symposia section, there are reflective lectures on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by a diverse range of thinkers, including Bauman, Chomski, Sassen, Kalder, Honderich, Hardt, to name a few. These individuals were asked by director Brad Evens, and Simon Critchley to critically reflect on the “ten years of terror” which that fateful day engendered. Their aim in this was not to “establish the “definitive truth” about the initial or subsequent events. Neither have we been content to accept the conventional narratives which tend to receive widespread media attention. Our focus instead has been to re-open the field of discussion so that we may evaluate the impact 9/11 has had on all aspects of life, while in the process offer new critical thinking on a problem that still continues to plague and suffocate the political landscape of the 21st Century”. The result are both fascinating and stimulating at the same time. Their efforts represent the future of academic discussion and show how the dissemination of research should be conducted in the 21st century. Lots of stuff here-enjoy!