Slow Seminar no. 18 with Nathalia Brichet and Heather Swanson

At this seminar we will explore what scientic knowledge is for AURA - how much diversity, contingency and contradiction can we manage?

2015.05.13 | Mai Korsbæk

Date Mon 08 Jun
Time 17:00 20:00
Location Jens Christian Schous vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515

Dear all,


For the 8 June Slow Seminar (time: 17-20; location:Jens Christian Schous vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515), I have collaborated with Heather on selecting a group of texts that explore knowledge diversity and its situatedness. In order to challenge and further our collaborative ambitions, might we find inspiration in these texts as to what scientific knowledge is for AURA – how much diversity, contingency and contradiction can we manage?


The readings and subsequent discussions should also be seen as preparatory for the seminar on postcolonial natures that AURA is hosting from 17-18 June in Århus. Among the invited guests for the postcolonial seminar are associate professor Itty Abraham from the National University of Singapore and associate professor Lesley Green from the University of Cape Town. For this Slow Seminar we have chosen to read part of Abraham’s book The Making of the Atomic Bomb (pp 1-106) and two articles and an introductory chapter by Lesley Green.


By bringing these texts together, we hope to have a fruitful discussion that can broaden and challenge our ideas about scientific knowledges. At the heart of these readings lie an important question: How might we do science seriously in ways that also take postcolonial politics seriously?


Both Green and Abraham are deeply committed to thinking about the relations of power within which knowledges are made. We pair them because their notions of power and politics differ in interesting ways.


The texts by Green raise questions about how one might take scientific practices and the knowledges they produce seriously, without running roughshod over other ways of knowing or making science a “master narrative.”


The first two articles are Lesley Green’s “Beyond South Africa’s ‘Indigenous knowledge – science’ wars” (2012) and “‘Indigenous Knowledge’ and ‘ Science’: Reframing the Debate on Knowledge Diversity” (2008). With a point of departure in the local/national discussions in South Africa on AIDS, Green’s first text tries to move us beyond the classical and hierarchized dichotomy of scientific knowledge versus other forms of knowledge in suggesting a room for diversity in knowledge production and in future postcolonial universities. In the second text, Green takes a more philosophical approach to the question of epistemology, arguing for an epistemology that will ‘advance understanding’ rather than express a strict realism.


The last text by Green is from her introduction to a project and a book called “Contested Ecologies”. It is her most recent project, and for the slow seminar we suggest it as an appetizer for the book that includes an article by another great postcolonial thinker, Helen Verran, and her colleague David Turnbull (suggested for a future slow seminar), Marisol de la Cadena, who has been mentioned in several AURA meetings, and the ever popular Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.


In contrast to Green, Abraham takes a much more historical and geopolitical approach to questions of knowledge-making.  His work demonstrates that Indian nuclear science is not just a “copy” of that of the “West,” but a form of science that is part of a complex and power-laden process of postcolonial state-making. Showing how forms of science emerge within contingent relationships, Abraham’s work demonstrates how science is more than a tool of Western imperialism. His work raises questions about why those of us interested in scientific practices might want to pay more attention to the state and “big politics” and how we might do so.


Abraham’s book will be available for purchase at Stakbogladen from the end of next week. It is also available online through as well as through and other sellers. Please contact Mai Korsbæk at for pdfs of the Lesley Green pieces.


Since the seminar is in the early evening, sandwiches will be served. Please RSVP to Mai Korsbæk by 2 June if you would like one.



Nathalia and Heather