Viral Theory: discussion sessions

Viral Theory: discussion sessions

Professor Jonathan Wittenberg used this model of sperm whale myoglobin structure as a teaching tool at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in the Bronx. It was used beginning in the mid-1960s as part of his class on cell function, which would later come to be known as molecular biology. Source: National Museum of American History.

Oxford Medical Humanities Programme & e-flux journal
Viral Theory: discussion sessions

Watch the archived stream here.

March 23–24, 2023
University of Oxford
TORCH Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road
Oxford OX2 6GG

Viruses have lurked on the margins of cultural theory ever since Deleuze and Guattari suggested that “our viruses make us form a rhizome with other creatures.” According to Patricia Clough and Jasbir Puar, in the age of the internet virality became “a form of communication and transmission across various domains: the biological, the cultural, the financial, the political, the linguistic, the technical, and computational.” In recent years, however, viral theory in the humanities and social sciences hasn’t kept pace with the scientific initiatives starting to peek into the virosphere’s vast unknown realms. Last year Eben Kirksey published a special issue of e-flux journal on Viral Theory that seeks to reckon with the multitude of invisible viral agents waiting to disrupt, detour, and reroute established modes of life. 

Contributors to the Viral Theory collection of essays will enter into conversation with Povinelli, who engages with the virus as the popular cultural figure of the zombie-Life turned to Nonlife and transformed into a new kind of species war—the aggressive rotting undead against the last redoubt of Life. Over the course of two days, we will engage with ideas about symbiotic and therapeutic viruses, as well as viral processes that disrupt debates about Life and Nonlife.

Session One: Thursday, March 23, 2023, 4–5:30pm (GMT)
Session Two: Friday, March 24, 2023, 1:30–3pm (GMT)
Session Three: Friday, March 24, 3:30–4:30pm (GMT)

Session One: Viral Realism, Junk, & Anarchy
Thursday, March 23, 2023, 4–5:30pm​ (Oxford)
12pm New York; 9am Los Angeles

Host: Eben Kirksey (University of Oxford), Discussant:  Julieta Aranda (e-flux), Participants: Celia Lowe (University of Washington),  Rachel Vaughn (UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics), and Caitlin Berrigan (Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna)

We will discuss three papers in Session One: The Viral Real by Celia Lowe, Viral Junk by Rachel Vaughn, and Kinship is Anarchy by Caitlin Berrigan.


Session Two: Viral Luck
Friday, March 24, 2023, 1:30–3pm​ (Oxford)
9:30am New York; 6:30am Los Angeles; 9:30pm Bangkok  

Host/Discussant: Julieta Aranda (e-flux), Participants: Hannah Landecker (UCLA), Eben Kirksey (University of Oxford), and members of the Amor Mundi Multispecies Ecological Worldmaking Laboratory (Chiang Mai University). 

We will discuss two papers in Session Two: Viruses Are More Like Cone Snails Than Hijackers by Hannah Landecker, and Getting Lucky in Thailand by Eben Kirksey, Areeya Tivasuradej, Blake Palmer, Myint Than, Anne Atchara Changwong, Pietro Lo Casto, and Maya Kóvskaya


Session Three: Into the Virosphere with Povinelli
Friday, March 24, 3:30–4:30pm (Oxford)
11:30am New York; 6:30am Los Angeles

Host: Julieta Aranda (e-flux), Discussant: Elizabeth Povinelli (Columbia University),  Participants: Stephan Guttinger (University of Exeter),  and Eben Kirksey (University of Oxford).

We will discuss two papers in Session Three: Welcome to the Virosphere by Eben Kirksey and Viral Things by Stephan Guttinger

Health & Disease, Biology
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