‘On thinking with — scientists, Sciences, and Isabelle Stengers’ by Jeremy Fernando

Monday, 1 June
12 — 1.30pm
Mayhew Room (2234 SS&H) 
University of California, Davis

When you sent me off to see the world,
were you scared that I might get hurt?
Would I try a little tobacco,
would I keep on hiking up my skirt?
(Tracy Bonham: Mother mother)

In her lecture entitled ‘Cosmopolitics: Learning to Think with Sciences, Peoples, Natures’, Isabelle Stengers issues a challenge for us to rethink our relationality with the world: to move from an anthropocentric conception — one of her main critiques is the casting of Nature as a “loving mother,” as if we are its offspring — to a response to, “with,” the unknowability that is Nature; in its, and our, multiplicities. This talk offers a reading of the notion of the mother; and, in particular, why Science relies on it. Rifting off, and with, Stengers’ notion that the familial, familiar — that naming — is an attempt to tame Nature, this reading opens the possibility that Science’s reliance on the correspondence between a notion and a phenomenon, for legitimacy and ultimately authority — allowing all echoes of daddy to resound here — is hinged upon the figure of the mother. However, a reading of the mother also unveils the mystical foundations of the daddy figure of Science, or at least that which Science has become. Thus, it is not so much that we need to revoke Mother Nature, or recast her as an ancient Gaia (as Stengers suggests), but that, more than ever, we need to take the notion of the mother, in all its profundity, seriously. And by doing so, we might perhaps reopen the register that Friedrich Nietzsche never quite lets us forget; that of the gay scientist — the one who tests everything, even the test itself.


I’m losing my mind/ Everything’s fine …

jf - on thinking with (poster)

(poster design by Tan Jingliang)

Jeremy Fernando is the Jean Baudrillard Fellow at the European Graduate School, where he is also a Reader in Contemporary Literature & Thought. He works in the intersections of literature, philosophy, and the media; and has written eleven books — including Reading Blindly, Living with Art, and Writing Death. His work has also been featured in magazines and journals such as Berfrois, CTheory, TimeOut, and VICE, amongst others; and he has been translated into Spanish and Slovenian. Exploring other media has led him to film, music, and art; and his work has been exhibited in Seoul, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is the general editor of both Delere Press and the thematic magazine One Imperative; and a Fellow of Tembusu College at the National University of Singapore.


This event is co-sponsored by Science & Technology Studies (STS), the Center for Science and Innovation Studies (CSIS), Cultural Studies, and the Sawyer Seminar.

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