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Predisciplinarity After Foucault

The Dis/Order of Things: Predisciplinarity After Foucault

Saturday, 24 October 2009
Birkbeck, University of London

Organizer: Luisa Calè (l.cale@bbk.ac.uk)
Keynote Speaker: Simon During (Johns Hopkins University)

Taking its starting point from Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things (1966), this one-day interdisciplinary research workshop brings together postgraduate students, academics from different fields, and curators to discuss the circulation, collecting, and ordering of objects in Enlightenment spaces.

In the first part of the meeting we will have a reading group style discussion on Foucault’s The Order of Things, focusing on chapter 5: ‘Classifying’. Foucault’s The Order of Things was arguably one of the most influential and ground-breaking books in twentieth-century intellectual history, an investigation into the conditions of possibility of the human sciences that offered an archeology of the disciplines. The Order of Things produced an often unrecognizable and deliberately controversial account of the ruptures within and between traditionally defined epistemes like that of economics, natural history and philology. The repercussions and controversies generated by this text continue to resonate within current debates on disciplinarity, and especially on the relations between the humanities and the sciences.

In the second part of the meeting, we will take the ‘order of things’ as a starting point for a discussion on the collection, migration, and classification of objects in Enlightenment Collections. Our common ground will be exhibits coming from James Cook’s voyages to European Museums in the late eighteenth century, given the substantial attention that Cook objects have received in recent interdisciplinary studies. This session will be introduced by short statements by Curators:

  • Kim Sloan (British Museum) on curating the Enlightenment Gallery at BM
  • Frances Carey (British Museum) on James Cook’s Hand

In preparation for the session, please familiarize yourself with the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum and with the Catalogue of the Forster Collection (donated to the Ashmolean Museum in 1776, now at the Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford), which is available online at  http://projects.prm.ox.ac.uk/forster/home.html. The session is also chance for you to contribute questions about objects that arise from your own research.

The day will conclude with a keynote lecture by Professor Simon During (Johns Hopkins)