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Fusion of two images: "Dyers scraping stenciled fabrics," figure 235, Hommel & Mercer, China at Work 1937, and "Indian indigo-dye worker," photo A. Mamidipudi, 2017.

Dept. III

Artifacts, Action, Knowledge

The department pursues two research themes: Histories of Planning, operating with action as an entry point, and The Body of Animals, which sets out from artifacts. These conceptual approaches are complemented by a critical engagement with Source Based Initiatives. Within these themes, smaller, collaborative working groups focused on project-based outputs promote discussion and debate on the production of knowledge.


Histories of Planning emphasizes the dynamics of how different forms of knowledge are used to “make things work” through conceptual and material processes. The research cluster, The Art of Judgement has developed several themes, and recently turned its attention to Baselining Nature.

The Body of Animals addresses the historical thresholds of animality, knowledge, and materiality. It engages with the methods and geographies that underwrite how people have known about and through animals. The theme is structured in three working groups: Out of Place, Out of TimeProteins and Fibers, and Reclaiming “Turtles All the Way Down” (in preparation).


Source Based Initiatives (SBI) concentrate on the most basic assumptions about matter and meaning: how object and subject, text and artifact, practice and theory are related and reflected in the sources that we use. Active working groups in SBI are: Local GazetteersVisualization of the Heavens, WebGIS Historical Maps of China, and Measuring the Earth. A further project, Drugs Across Asia, has moved to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


Scale and Scope

Art of Judgement

Source Based Initiatives