The Biocultures Manifesto

On Friday I read a new manifesto by Lennard Davis and David Morris: Biocultures Manifesto published in the New Literary History. While the assertions and insights may not be entirely novel to readers of this blog, their declarations, nonetheless, are spot on and because of the finesse and clarity with which they write, this manifesto will be part of the arsenal many of us will use for our teaching.

The manifesto covers the co-constitution of science and society, of fact and value, and of the great difficulties of making and grappling new knowledge. Probably one of my favorite sections is the following:

In the end, all branches of knowledge interpret. Interpretation isn’t all that they do, but it constitutes a massive common ground. Scientists set up experiments to generate data that they interpret. Literary critics interpret texts. Judges interpret the law. Sign language and interpreters ad translators transform one lanague into another … Wouldn’t we all benefit by learning the rules or norms by which various discourse produce and interpret their findings? Wouldn’t such knowledge help us improve our own perhaps distinctive interpretive norms and skills…. This learning, while not discord-free, offers a model for dialogue and holds out a promise that interpretative disagreements need no become occasions for violent conflict.

My only beef with the article is that, well, it is lives within walled garden. And I have to say, a manifesto behind gates is a little less of a manifesto. To say this, is not to blame the authors as we are often at the mercy of the journals. However, I think we do have a responsibility to put this issue out in the open and eventually start breaking down the walls.

2 thoughts on “The Biocultures Manifesto

  1. Well, one does have to start somewhere. I would argue that the most grotesque sins of this type are made in academia, and having academics have an interdisciplinary understanding of how interpretation works in other fields would go a long way to overcoming academic biases, etc. that lead to some pretty poor education in our universities due to the completely unnecessary “two cultures” in them.

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Round Up #16 « Neuroanthropology

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