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2013, Sat, Jan 12

Cosmograms, or How To Do Things with Worlds

John Tresch

Keynote by John Tresch (Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia). Introduction and talk: Armen Avanessian (Peter Szondi-Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Wissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin)


Each culture has had means to conceptualize and address the nature and composition of the universe, frequently creating representations of the order of all that exists, also known as “cosmograms.” The concept of a cosmogram can be expanded to apply to all knowledge about “natural” and “human” worlds, as well as the interactions between them. Departing from the Anthropocene thesis’ conception of nature as a malleable entity, historian John Tresch takes a culturally and historically comparative perspective to consider instances of cosmo-pragmatics, or how cosmograms have been used to foster intervention upon the world. His talk addresses a variety of exemplary phenomena, from 19th century Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution to today’s ecological discourse and the fragility of our cosmic order.


John Tresch (Philadelphia) is an associate professor in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research focuses on the cultural history of science and technology in Europe and the U.S. from 1750 to the present. He recently published his first book, "The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology after Napoleon" (2012).


Armen Avanessian (Berlin) studied philosophy, literary studies and political science in Vienna and Paris and has been a lecturer at the Peter-Szondi-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin since 2007. The founder of the Research Platform on Speculative Poetics was visiting fellow in the German Department, Columbia University, New York in 2011, and at Yale University, New Haven in 2012. Publications include: Phänomenologie ironischen Geistes: Ethik, Poetik und Politik der Moderne (2010) and the recently edited volume (together with Luke Skrebowski) Aesthetics and Contemporary Art (2011).


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