October 28, 2018 fkirschner

This week’s weekend reading delay comes courtesy of cleaning up after our big opening this past Friday and a long overdue facelift for our main website.

How fitting then, that James Davic Nicoll writes about “How to Destroy Civilization and Not Be Boring” (at tor.com).

One of my favourite hypotheses is disruptive technological change: cheap iron replacing expensive bronze had as a side effect the overturning of a complex social order, and thus the sudden collapse of everything dependent on that social order. It would be extremely comic if all it took to duplicate one of the most dramatic setbacks human civilization has suffered was something as simple as global computer networks. Or Twitter.


Staying with the topic, and trouble, of civilization, David Wengrow argues (at sapiens.org) that the lenses we apply to reconstruct what once was are often inherently flawed and distinctly shaped by our own societal structures, leaving out all the parts that make civilization civilized. Like, for example, women.

A moment’s reflection shows that women, their work, their concerns and innovations are at the core of this more accurate understanding of civilization. Tracing the place of women in societies without writing often means using clues left, quite literally, in the fabric of material culture, such as painted ceramics that mimic both textile designs and female bodies in their forms and elaborate decorative structures.

Also, did you know that all classical sculptures were painted? Margret Talbot writes (at newyorker.com):

In 2008, Fabio Barry, an art historian who is now at Stanford, complained that a boldly colored re-creation of a statue of the Emperor Augustus at the Vatican Museum looked “like a cross-dresser trying to hail a taxi.”


Very fitting to today’s reading on our social construction and misconception of science and history, the New York Times has a wonderful portrait of Bruno Latour courtesy of Ava Kofman.

Day-to-day research — what he termed science in the making — appeared not so much as a stepwise progression toward rational truth as a disorderly mass of stray observations, inconclusive results and fledgling explanations. Far from simply discovering facts, scientists seemed to be, as Latour and Woolgar wrote in “Laboratory Life,” “in the business of being convinced and convincing others.”


And now that we know that the performativity and the materiality of one’s surrounding is as important as any form of supposedly objective measurement, Jörg Häntzschel (at sz.de) takes a close look at Monika Grütters and the way she is shaping cultural production in this country.

Grütters hat keine kulturelle Agenda, oder: Ihre kulturelle Agenda ist Funktion ihrer politischen Agenda und die lautet, Freunde gewinnen, Feinde neutralisieren, den eigenen Einfluss mehren, um am Ende politische Erfolge vorweisen zu können. Da sie den Geldhahn zu- oder aufdrehen kann, da sie über die Vergabe der meisten Posten entscheidet, fällt ihr das nicht schwer.


And that’s all for this week.