2022-23 Events

2023 Models of Evolution

March 30-31, 2023

Prof. Richard Prum

Richard Prum (William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University)

Workshop/Conversation: “Performance All the Way Down: Genes, Development, and Sexual Difference"
Thursday, March 30, 11:30 am-1:00 pm (Allen 314)

The genetic and cellular mechanisms involved in the development of complex multicellular organisms are best understood as performative– that is, as involving “the reiterative power of discourse to produce the phenomena that it regulates and constrains” (Butler 1993). Drawing on Butler, Barad, and Grosz, I will discuss the performativity of gene expression and bodily development, with particular attention to human sexual development. The performativity of the sexual phenotype supports implications for the definitions and ontologies of sex and gender. Biology needs queer feminist theory to achieve an accurate scientific account of the generation and evolution of material bodies. 

Richard Prum (William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University)

Professor Prum’s talk “Aesthetic Evolution and the Coevolution of Art” (originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 29th from 3:30-5:00 pm) has had to be changed to Friday, March 31, from 12:30-2:00 pm, in Nanaline 147.

Mate choice, pollination, frugivory, and apostematism (i.e., warning signals) are examples of aesthetic coevolution in non-human organisms. Drawing on human and nonhuman examples, I will present a broad aesthetic framework in which art is defined as a form of communication that coevolves with its evaluation. This post-human perspective supports productive insights into mechanisms of aesthetic change, the ontology of biotic and human artworlds, and art history. 

Dr. Orit Halpern 

Talk: “Neural ‘Freedoms’: Population, Choice, and Machine Learning”
Friday, March 31, 3:30-5:00 pm (East Duke, Pink Parlor)

Duke's Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory (CISSCT) is excited to announce Orit Halpern's upcoming talk, Neural ‘Freedoms’: Population, Choice, and Machine Learning. Please join us in the East Duke Pink Parlor on Friday, March 31st from 3:30-5:00 pm for Dr. Halpern's talk. 

This talk interrogates the history of models of decision making and agency in machine learning, neo-liberal economic thought, and finance in order to interrogate how reactionary politics, population, and technology are being reformulated in our present. While the relationship between the Right, post-truth, suggestion algorithms, and social media has long been documented, rarely has there been extensive investigation of how ideas of choice and freedom become recast in a manner amenable to machine automation and to particular brands of post-1970s alt-Right discourses. An analysis of this history demonstrates a new logic within algorithmic and artificial intelligent rationalities that intersects with, but is also not merely a repetition of, earlier histories of eugenics, sexism, and racism. This situation provokes serious challenges to political action, but also to our theorization of histories of race and sex capitalism. 

Orit Halpern is Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at the Technical University of Dresden. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design, and she is currently working on two projects: the first is a history of automation, intelligence, and freedom;  the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering. Her monograph Beautiful Date: A History of Vision and Reason (Duke UP 2015) investigates histories of big data, design, and governmentality, and she is co-author of the recently published monograph The Smartness Mandate (MIT Press, 2023). For questions about this event, please contact Lizzie Apple (elizabeth.apple@duke.edu).