"Bruno Latour's Gaia Theory”
Food for Thought
Tuesday, April 10, 12:10pm in the STS Conference Room, SSH 1246
Abstract: The diverse disciplinary and cultural uptake of the Gaia hypothesis is a textbook case of science in action, Bruno Latour’s long-held stock in trade. More importantly, in the full accounting of its theory in process, the complex of Gaian ideas developed by Lovelock and Margulis aligns with Latour’s own philosophy of nonmodernity and its redistribution of natural and social agencies, its worldly sociology of quasi-objects and quasi-subjects. Latour’s explicit treatments of Gaia go back to the 1990s. His success in moving informed Gaia discussion into new precincts of scholarly conversation has certainly been a welcome development for Gaian thought. One could still ask, however, what Gaia becomes when Latour narrates its modes of existence through the flattened ontology of actor-network theory? How does that description align with Gaia theory in Lovelock’s and Margulis’s own presentations, the fullness of which makes manifest a wide range of systems theory discourse? Are the separate conceptual goods of actor-network theory and systems theory mutually exclusive, positively supplementary, or what, precisely?
Because this is a Food for Thought Event, we will pre-circulate a text which will be briefly introduced at the start of the session. The introduction will be followed by an hour or so of lively discussion about the text, so please come having read the paper in advance. Food and refreshments will be provided! If you are interested in attending, please RSVP using the google form. We will send a copy of the text a week before the event to those who register.
Bruce Clarke is Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science in the Department of English at Texas Tech University. His research focuses on 19th- and 20th-century literature and science, with special interests in systems theory, narrative theory, evolution, and ecology. He is the author of Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (University of Michigan Press, 2001), Posthuman Metamorphosis: Narrative and Systems (Fordham University Press, 2008), and Neocybernetics and Narrative (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), among many other publications. He edits the book series Meaning Systems, published by Fordham University Press.