To promote conversations between our researchers and beyond our department, we have created working groups  that address central theoretical questions emerging from the volatile fields of human action we study. 

Members of this working group are interested in the material and semiotic enactment of political assembly, starting with key modes such as the people, the population, the crowd, and the public. We respond to the significant ways in which an emphasis on collectivity has defined political life in recent times – resurgent “populisms”, mobilizations around racist violence and environmental catastrophe, illiberal democracies, religious revivalisms. But we also take up these concerns in light of long-standing debates in social and political theory over the puzzle and pressure of the collective, among them arguments about sovereignty and popular will, charisma and authority, and the very possibility of meaningful representation. Our inquiries explore the conceptually distinct but practically intertwined and temporally recursive relations at four key points of focus which cross diverse sites and scales: mehr
Utopian thinking has gained urgency in the face of global crises. If there ever was an end to history, utopian and dystopian visions animate the present as aspiration, critique, and embodied practice. This working group uses the notion of lived utopias to attend to the ways such visions are anchored in and shape the present. The utopias we investigate “live” through concrete imaginations, arrangements, technologies, embodiments, and everyday practices that seek to enact radically different lives and worlds. Lived utopias provide a prism for making sense of the contemporary. From a variety of empirical angles, we document how utopian projects of more-than-human and human actors anticipate and realize change. We attend to the ways situated actors experiment with and struggle to live utopias, and how they succeed and fail in their attempts – how they implement their aspirations, seed futures, and counteract dystopias and nightmares. mehr
Members of this working group are interested in enactments and contestations of universality within and through the sciences in a post-colonial world. We train our analysis on universality in science as an ideology, an aspiration, and a social fact. How does science count as science, and which science counts? We attend to the critique of science – for example through decolonizing and feminist approaches – and also to science as critique. We begin by engaging with the ways in which science as a form of knowledge and practice becomes crucial for (re)imagining and producing lives and worlds in specific socio-political contexts. By following the work of scientists from fields as varied as astronomy, psychiatry, genetics, field biology, and artificial intelligence, we investigate processes of localization as well as various forms of political mobilization with, for, and against science. In analysing the universality of science, we aim to explore the possibilities of “critique” in and of the sciences today. While our focus is on the natural sciences, our discussion may lead us to break open the dichotomy of the sciences and humanities, also by reflecting on our own situated positionalities. mehr
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