Organized by
Maria Dębińska, Julia Sánchez-Dorado, Ben Woodard

Model Organisms: Materiality, History and Politics
21-22 March 2024
ICI Berlin
In English

Model organisms are life forms used to test biological theories of various kinds in laboratory settings. Research with model organisms muddies the line between models as material objects and models as abstract entities. Model organisms are not fully constructed, since they are evolved beings, but the longer they reside in a laboratory the less they resemble their kin in the wild. At the same time the construction of biological generalities from the research results from one model organism involves an extrapolation beyond species constraints.

The aim of this symposium is to investigate how research practices and theories of life are differently deployed according to different organisms and their affordances.
This is particularly evident in the choice of organism and how it produces not only bio-medical results but also generates historical, cultural, and artistic relations.

For example, the genetics of fruit flies slowly begins to stand in for genetics in general, the deep homologies discovered through cephalopod eyes surprises in part due to their supposed alienness, epigenetic effects in agouti mice give hope for human dietary diseases, the regenerative capacities of the axolotl become bound up with fantasies of immortality, and the horizontal gene transfer among archaea and bacteria undermine our notions of organismal or even philosophical individuality.

The organizers welcome proposals for 20-minute talks that present case studies of particular model organisms as well as more general critical accounts of the practice of modeling with living organisms and its historical and political aspects.

Keynotes by
Sabina Leonelli and Rachel Ankeny
Jan Baedke

Deadline: Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to by 30 November 2023. Letters of acceptance will be sent out by 15 December 2023.

Funding: Participants with limited funding to attend the workshop can apply to receive a lump sum towards travel and accommodation costs.

Any queries should be addressed to the organizers.

Posted on 24 October 2023