Max Planck Institut for the History of Science

The world, more of than not, is and has been conceived in its compactness, as stuff, things, and objects; far less so, in its interstices. Science, technology and culture, of course, are permeated and traversed by boundary phenomena: From the materialities of life itself, whether cellular membranes, skin, immune-systems or ecological habitats, to surface, separation and purification processes in chemistry and industry to the making, processing and exhibition of photographs and films, things coalesced at surfaces. They are palpable as well in the history of geography and politics, of urban and private spaces, of literature, art, psychology and the self, and certainly enough, as interfaces, in contemporary media theory.

And yet, these surface phenomena, and the historical questions they raise, have garnered little systematic attention. In the history of science, for instance, can we generate cultural histories of the biological cell, a historiographically rather neglected object? Or related, of the similarly neglected but important, huge fields such as electro-chemistry or chemical engineering? Might we re-read through surface-objects disciplinary histories, experimental practices or the ways science is permeable to its social and cultural settings (and vice versa)? In film and media studies, how can attention to the materialities of surfaces incorporate the histories of science, technology or industry? Or again, more philosophically, how can we bring together concepts and materials, the abstract and concrete, metaphors and physical boundaries in re-thinking the histories of interstices? 
    The workshop Membranes, Surfaces and Boundaries aims to recover and bring together these interstices. Accompanied by the exhibition "Membranes, Surfaces and Boundaries"  (9 October - 4 November 2010) at Galerie AEDES (Pfefferberg,  Berlin), contributions from a wide range of disciplines will cross, straddle and make permeable these specialist divides, interrogating the historical being of surfaces. The workshop programme and contact information can be found below, and here.

Please contact us if you wish to attend. Participation is open, but registration is required.