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17.10.2023, 06:15 pm, PEG 2.G107

Lecture Dr. Malka Older: Disaster Present – Disaster Futures

Older is a science fiction writer and sociologist.

Disasters are often framed as exceptional events, bubbles of extraordinary time apart from normality, with a return to that so-called normal as the goal. In this era of the Anthropocene, however, disasters are rapidly becoming the norm. What can disaster studies tell us about how to respond? How can we better govern ourselves, both during acute crises, and throughout the slow grinding emergencies of late capitalism? Disasters, with their compressed time frames and often intense documentation and scrutiny, offer clues for better collaboration and the pitfalls of desperation.

16.01.24, 6:15 pm, SH3.105

Lecture Prof. Dr. Jörg Niewöhner: Science after Progress

Technical University of Munich /
TUM School of Social Sciences and Technology /
Anthropology of Science and Technology

Much life scientific research until today has been directed at understanding the building blocks and dynamics of life as if they existed in a pristine state. Natural life if you will. The Anthropocene, however, alerts us to the fact that life-as-natural has ceased to exist. The globally dominant capitalist exchange systems have altered life from the molecular to landscape structures and planetary circulations. ‘Science after progress’ is thus a call to pay attention to life-in-action, i.e. to how metabolic, immune, and endocrine processes are inhabited by the political economies of our past and present.
In this talk, trying to link to the theme of ‘fixing futures’, I want to explore the temporal aspects that are enacted through a science after progress. Contrary to the current obsession with anticipation of all sorts, I would like to contend that fixing futures demands at least also a biology of history (Landecker) through which we overcome the sacrificial logics of the future perfect (Povinelli). Such an approach demands interdisciplinarity in various forms and thus places an ethnographic STS in a central role as mediator between distant epistemic cultures.

23.01.2024, 6:15 pm, PEG 2.G107

Lecture Prof. Dr. Luigi Pellizzoni: Will the future ever begin? On the logic of non-linear anticipations

University of Firenze

In a seminal work, one of the greatest sociologists of the 20th century, Niklas Luhmann, noted that the relationship with time established in modernity is peculiar in that the future is conceived as open-ended and therefore requires technologies, first of all probabilistic prediction, capable of making it actionable, ‘defuturizing’ it to the present. This means limiting the number of possibilities, though the horizon of events ever shifts forward and in this sense, Luhmann says, the future ‘cannot begin’. In late modernity the politics of time has become increasingly relevant and the relationship with the future more complex. Defuturizing technologies have diversified and intensified accordingly. Two are especially worthy of attention: pre-emption and preparedness. They have been described as forms of precautionary action, yet, differently to precaution, their temporal structure is non-linear. They both foreshadow catastrophic or restorative futures, positing them as certain and elusive at once. As a result, the present becomes indefinitely protracted and plastic. This means the future ‘cannot begin’ in quite a different way to the traditional understanding – not because ever-unfolding but because occluded. Clues to this condition are the replacement of the traditional concept of revolution with that of transition; the fact, testified by ‘post-apocalyptic’ activism, that public emphasis on the future grows together with the perception of its fading away; and recent examples of emergency governance. Some mobilisations are apparently trying to (re)open the future by parting company with both utopian and dystopian thinking through a peculiar anticipatory work on the present.

7.12.2023, 4pm, PEG 1G 107

Lecture Prof. Henning Laux: Weltverbesserungstechnologien

Leipnitz University Hanover

In jüngster Zeit werden neue Technologien immer häufiger mit einer Semantik der disruptiven Weltverbesserung verknüpft. In einem laufenden Forschungsprojekt inspizieren wir anhand von drei Fallstudien – Clean Meat, Social Freezing und Digitale Assistenten – was sich hinter dieser Rhetorik verbirgt. Dabei geraten im Anschluss an Theorien der Rechtfertigungsordnung (Boltanski/Thévenot 1991; Boltanski/Chiapello 1999) und aktuelle Analysen zum digitalen Kapitalismus (Morozov 2013; Nachtwey/Seidl 2017) die Konturen einer Polis der Solution in den Blick, in der technische Lösungen für existenzielle Menschheitsprobleme wie Armut, Hunger, Krankheit oder Tod in Aussicht gestellt werden. Der Vortrag arbeitet die Besonderheiten dieser soziomateriellen Symbolordnung heraus und fragt nach den Implikationen für die Praxis der Gesellschaft und ihrer soziologischen Kritik.