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In recent years the categorical separation between the subjective and objective world in Modernity’s imaginary and societal space has in many disciplines been subject to a fundamental reappraisal, and kindled, not least, a new interest in Animism. The conference on the exhibition brings together a broad range of current perspectives from the fields of ethnology, literary criticism, art, the natural sciences, the history of science and politics.
The focus and starting point of the debate is to identify possible and surprising correspondences and connections, render both the concept and history of Animism a fruitful subject for self-interrogation and foster a new critical reflection of Modernity. The discussions scrutinize Modernity’s established practice of separating and demarcating between nature and culture, things and actors, world and imagination.
Three roundtables place “Animism” in relation to the current issues concerning the modern order of global economic, political, and ecological conditions. The evening lectures comment on the newly discovered transdisciplinary attention commanded by “Animism” from a philosophical, political and scientific perspective.
Irene Albers, Professor for General and Comparative Literature and Romanic Philology at the Freie Universität Berlin
Anselm Franke, curator of the exhibition
Conference Day 1 | Day 2
2 – 6 pm Roundtable 1: Animism and the Other Narratives of Modernity
This roundtable explores the capacity of the concept to act as a historiographic device. Here, the critic of the modern-colonialist assumptions implicit in the concept opens new perspectives on the writing of modern history, concerning the constitution of the modern order of knowledge, things, disciplines and society. How can the imaginary and historical realms of Modernity be reflected anew through the conceptual prism of Animism?
With: Cornelius Borck (Director of the Institute for the History of Medicine and Science, University of Lübeck), Harry Garuba (Director of the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town), Thomas Macho (Professor for Cultural History, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin), Gabriele Schwab (Professor for Comparative Literature, University of California/Irvine), Erhard Schüttpelz (Professor for Media Theory, University of Siegen), Elisabeth von Samsonow (Professor for the Philosophical and Historical Anthropology of Art, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna), Spyros Papapetros (Professor for History and the Theory of Architecture, Princeton University)
Moderation: Anselm Franke, Irene Albers
7 pm Reclaiming Animism
Isabelle Stengers, Lecture
“Reclaim” means demanding the return of that from which we were once separated. Not, however, in the simple sense of retrieving what was once “lost,” but rather recovering from this separation and “regenerating what was poisoned as a consequence of it.” What must be the constitution of a mode of thinking, such as a science, which negotiates animism within the complex construct of “knowledge production?” What possibilities can then arise if we ensure that the preconditions of this thinking and the “objects” of science are flexible and freely negotiable?
Isabelle Stengers is Professor for the Philosophy of Science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
8 pm The Speech of Things and the Commonwealth of Breath
David Abram, Lecture
This talk will suggest that animism, first and foremost, is a way of speaking in close accordance with the spontaneous life of our bodily senses. By acknowledging the active agency and eloquence of things (whether those things be creatures, artifacts, dry riverbeds, gusts of wind, or spoken words), we awaken our animal senses from a kind of slumber. To learn to speak (and to sense) in this manner is a gesture of humility, a practice that calls the human mind back to its body—and calls the body, again and again, into dynamic relation and exchange with the more-than-human community of earthly things.
David Abram is a US-American cultural ecologist, philosopher and director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics (AWE), New Mexico.
9 pm In conversation: Isabelle Stengers and David Abram
Moderation: Anselm Franke
The project is accompanied by the publication “Animismus – Revisionen der Moderne”, edited by Irene Albers and Anselm Franke, diaphanes Verlag 2012.
Conference Day 1 | Day 2