Materiality: objects and idioms in historical studies of science and technology.
May 3-4, 2013
There is a renewed interest in materiality. After the turn to discourse and signs in the late twentieth century, much recent work in the history of science and technology has revived its focus on matter and meaning, and on their fusion in the potent objects we call “things”. But materiality is about more than things. As an historical object; as a story of origins; as a tension with immateriality; as an effect of assemblage and argument; and as a way of thinking about scholarly work, materiality begs for broader treatment.
This conference explores materiality as both historical object and emerging idiom in historical studies of science and technology. On one hand, it seeks to push into new sites of inquiry: How do we historicize materiality? When does materiality become a concern for historical actors and for scholars? How do the specific, local materialities of scientific and technical work figure in the wide-scale sweep of historical developments? But alongside new sites and questions, the conference explores emerging research tools and modes of scholarly expression that move beyond traditional text into sound, film and objects. Through paper presentations, hands-on sessions, exhibits and installations, we bring together a range of scholars and projects interested in thinking about materiality as historical object, intellectual resource, and scholarly expression.
Keynote: Peter Galison (Harvard University)
- Katharine Anderson (York University)
- Bob Brain (UBC)
- Tina Choi (York University)
- Kristen Haring (Auburn University)
- Edward Jones-Imhotep (York University)
- Carla Nappi (UBC)
- Sophia Roosth (Harvard University)
- Hanna Rose Shell (MIT)
- Emily Thompson (Princeton University)
- John Tresch (University of Pennsylvania)
- William Turkel (Western University)
May 2, 2013 — 4:30pm
Robert McEwen Auditorium, Schulich School of Business
Abstract: In the standard picture of the history of special relativity, Henri Poincaré’s and Albert Einstein’s reformulation of simultaneity is considered a quasi-philosophical intervention, a move made possible by his dis-connection from the standard physics of the day. Meanwhile, Einstein’s engagement at the Patent Office (or Poincare¹s in the Bureau of Longitude) enter the story as lowly day jobs — irrelevant to fundamental work on the nature of the world. I have argued, on the
contrary, that the all-too material and the most abstract notions of time cross in essential ways. In a collaboration with the artist William Kentridge (“The Refusal of Time”) we explored this intersection, pushing on history, physics, and philosophy into a more associative-imaginative register. This talk is an account of this complex of problems at the boundary of art and physics history.