Posts By: pp George Rousseau

Network Narratives are catching on

Network narratives start to take hold. Not only their mandatory historical documentation, but the crucial idea that the most basic conception of “networks” has changed over time and needs to be problematized far more than it has been. Take Voltaire for example, the great networker of the French Enlightenment. He was a celebrity in his

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Network Narratives at Christmas

Christmas is the ultimate “network”, where everything connects to everything else. Except that Christmas forms a sentimental chain, inherently nostalgic and backward looking, historically a recent phenomenon in our contemporary version and shaped by inescapable live-above-your-means ideologies. Christmas networks stand in contrast to other profit-chains based on geographies, migrations, kinship outside the immediate family, and

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Historicizing Networks

Talk and writing about networks is reaching frenzied heights. You cannot pick up a newspaper or magazine without finding articles about the ubiquitous,  twittering, “networked” classes. Most deal with cognition and consciousness, and to what degree mind is as embodied as brain. But networks loom as large. The “humanities” of networks lags: their history, anthropology

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Neurology Narratives

Canongate Publishers in Edinburgh recently reissued Jonas Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist. I missed the original publication when Houghton Mifflin printed it in Boston in 2007. This is a wonderful book title, even if Proust was more neurasthenic than neuroscientist. The new dust jacket reiterates that “science is not the only path to knowledge. In

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Physiological Idealism and historical neurocultures

Theorists of contemporary neurocultures – neuroeconomics, neuroshopping, neuro-stockmarkets – often proceed as if they had never heard of the great physiological idealism of the nineteenth century. This long wave commenced in the high Enlightenment, when a revolution in thinking about the anatomical nerves got underway, blossomed during the Victorian and Bismarckian period, and continued into

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Addiction and the Neuralized Imagination

We take addiction for granted, as we do the hundreds of little facts each of us knows about it. But until the late nineteenth century addiction existed in such different versions from ours’ that we would hardly recognize the concept today. Until the early nineteenth century, addiction was configured as compulsion: especially the behaviour of

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Do early modern neurocultures have any impact today?

Victorian scholars, ever proud to claim their man Darwin as the centrepiece of evolution, continue to comment how many topics of pressing current concern Darwin and Darwinism anticipated.  Social and cultural transformation, the evolution of natural forms, the extinction of mankind, amidst others. No other century seems to have boasted such a prescient harbinger for

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Science among Brazilian Intellectuals

I am based in the very centre of sprawling, skyscraper, stimulating Sao Paolo and have now visited a few of the intellectuals’ salons. These exist amongst the mostly Brazilian intelligentsia who are urbane and Europhilic, looking to Paris, Berlin, Rome, but less to New York or London. The salonistes are exquisitely educated and multilingual –

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First Impressions of a Visiting Professor in Sao Paolo, Brazil

‘ve just arrived as the FAPESP Visiting Professor in the State of Sao Paolo, FAPESP being Brazil’s largest academic and scientific funding agency, and my remit is to lecture in all the state’s universities and meet its representatives. So I’m looking for clues. Clues everywhere, clues to anything. I can already gather how shockingly uneven

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Another Interdisciplinary Conference about the Nerves

This one is called ‘The Stimulated Body and the Arts: The Nervous System and Nervousness in the History of Aesthetics’, and is occurring  this week in Durham England, where the raw wind is blowing hard over the famous cathedral.  It assembles a broad swath of historians, especially of science and medicine, and musicologists interested in

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