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"The Art of Moving in Biology", Janina Wellmann (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date21 January 2019
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceByrne House

Egenis seminar series. Since ancient times, self-propelled movement has been considered the distinguishing characteristic of the living, setting it apart from mere matter. Motion has always been observed, described and visualized: cells “dancing”, “swimming”, or “swarming”, for example, or “twitching”, “floating”, and “curling” have vividly brought to life the hidden world inside our bodies. But what is biological motion? While motion has always been central to studying the living world it appears to have been taken for granted in biological analysis.

In my work, I argue that motion in biology is not a simple given but the product of theories and practices of seeing and observing, of the spaces opened up by optical devices and experimental set-ups, of technologies and forms of representation that generate and capture movement. Put differently, motion is a quality in relation to how we produce the knowledge about motion in a specific historical and cultural setting.

In my talk, I will present different concepts and (visual) representations of motion ranging from the 17th century to contemporary systems biology. I will show that the scientific analysis of motion and the poetics of movement are inextricably entwined and how different concepts of movement reveal changing notions of what it means to be alive.


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