What Does Ecosystemic Thinking Mean Today?

Lars Bang Larsen, Sophia Roosth, and Cary Wolfe, What Does Ecosystemic Thinking Mean Today?

Friday, April 27
10:30am –12:00pm
ACT Cube, e15-001


Part of the Zooetics+ Symposium

Genealogy, impact and legacy of ecosystemic thought since the dawn of cybernetics. How have the infrastructures changed today since the publication of “Limits to Growth” or “Whole Earth Catalogue”? What tools are there to attune ourselves to perceive the interconnections of natural and man-made systems and to be able to make ethical, political, aesthetic decisions? This session is engaged with the question of how to transition from the habits of thought associated with cybernetics towards new thinking… perhaps sympoietics?

Cary Wolfe and Sophia Roosth
Respondent: Lars Bang Larsen

Cary Wolfe

Professor of English and Founding Director, 3CT: The Center for Critical and Cultural Theory, Rice University

“There Is No World:” Current Developments in Deconstruction and Theoretical Biology

This talk will use recent work in theoretical biology to give a robust naturalistic redescription of Jacques Derrida’s seemingly counter-intuitive assertion in the second set of seminars on The Beast and the Sovereign that “there is no world”—a statement we must hear against the backdrop not just of Heidegger’s work, but also of Jakob von Uexkull’s, which Heidegger read and knew. With that connection in mind, we will trace a line of development from Conrad Waddington’s work on “developmental landscapes” in the late 50s to theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman’s recent theorization of the “non-entailed” and “non-ergodic” evolution of the biosphere. This will enable us, in turn, to rethink the relevance of deconstruction for ecological thought in the larger context of a current movement away from the neo-Darwinian reductionist paradigm of evolution—a movement propelled in no small part by recent work in immunology and epigenetics.


Sophia Roosth

Associate Professor, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University

A Mineral Autobiography

Naturalists and scholars from Paracelsus to Hooke to contemporary geologists have been at a loss as to whether spherical sand-like entities named “ooids” (or their fossilized forms, oolites) are inorganic minerals or living organisms, even symbiotic organic microcosms. Found in locales from the Bahamian seas to Arctic stones to British tea kettles, ooids have long animated debates about what qualities define life – form or substance, self-organization or metabolic self-sufficiency. In this talk, ooids will for the first time speak for themselves, offering a longue durée account of both life on this planet and scientific inquiries into the ontologies of these dubiously living stones. This mineral autobiography experiments with the limits of writing at the interface of cultural and natural history. I here offer one avenue of thinking in which rocks, like other things, materialize and are made sense of at the interface of scientific inquiries and sociocultural histories. These stones are not universalized formalisms to which we can generously ascribe vitality, but peculiar particularities that embed and catalyze theories, queries, ontologies, taxonomies, social practices, and myriad life-ways.


Lars Bang Larsen

Adjunct Curator of International Art, Moderna Museet, and Guest Professor, Royal Art Academy, Stockholm

Symbiopoiesis, or the sympoietic, is a term that potentially enables us to think larger cultural assemblages and technological forms of being outside of biology. To biologist Scott Gilbert, symbiosis appears to be the rule rather than the exception: nature may be selecting ‘relationships’ rather than individuals or genomes. Perhaps it is our networked existence as a newly plugged-in species that has alerted us to the fact that life must be considered in terms of co-existence and interference, or in terms of a becoming on the “organic lines” that lie between systems (to borrow from Lygia Clark). Unlike earlier ver- sions of systemic thinking this is no promise of harmony, wholeness, or understandable totality, but a story of parasitism, irritability, and being through supplements. A properly cosmological outlook.




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