Project (2009-2010)

Membranous Things: An Archeology of the Nerve Cell, 1920–60

This project concerned a material history of the excitable cell in the twentieth century. Its central aim was to show that this cell was not only central to shaping biological science in the twentieth century, but also that it can be encountered at very mundane, unexpected, and indeed unbiological, places: the cellular life whose history this project unearthed was mediated by a fabric that was not living, organic, and natural, but fabricated, processed, and made-up, and hence known, controlled, and transparent: things—ersatz-objects—ranging from soap films to electrical circuits to calculation machines. The project involved several workshops at the MPIWG.