Dec 5-6, 2019
Animal Materialities: Compositions and Practices in the History of Science
- Dept. III
From foods to cosmetics, from drugs to design research, animals have been purposed for practical, creative, scientific, and commercial reasons throughout human history. As intensified global exploitation of natural resources directs increasing attention to the processes underlying the creation of everyday objects, historical questions about animal-derived materials have re-surfaced. These questions reckon not only with cultivation and production methods and the consequences of manufacture and consumption, they also prompt critical reflection about how substances and materials co-constructed by animals and humans have changed throughout history. Whether those things are made within or made by the creature in question, we focus upon how such substances, “animal materialities,” become legible and knowable at different scales and frameworks beyond animality. The fundamental question of what are animal materialities, serves as an inroad towards a re-examination of how humans in sociocultural contexts, with political economic and intellectual motivations, across different time periods, and spanning different conceptual, practical, and experimental spaces beyond the laboratory in various geographies, have engaged with and studied the material agencies situated within specific parts of animals. Canguilhem once proposed that biological tissues, like weavings, provide a theoretical and practical juxtaposition to smaller units of life, such as the cell.
Along these lines, this workshop examines the range of components of animal bodies used and transformed over time by animals, and humans. By inviting scholars working on histories of design, materials science, chemistry, and biological sciences to inquire into the histories of animal materialities, scrutiny is directed at the different knowledges and methods of studying, visualizing, and rendering animal tissues, cells, microbes, and molecules, including but not limited to lipids, fibrous and structural proteins such as collagen and keratin, teeth, and excretions. Ultimately, these juxtapositions help rethink the cultural, scientific, and epistemological significance of animal bodies and the means by which historical actors have redefined the human-animal interface.