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BLUE Reading Seminar 4

Sounding the Limits of Life – Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond

Info about event


Friday 11 June 2021,  at 15:00 - 17:00



Dear BLUE friends


BLUE is pleased to invite you to our fourth Reading Seminar Friday June 11th 2021 from 3-5 PM. 


For this reading workshop, we will be discussing Stefan Helmreichs book, Sounding the Limits of Life – Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond (2016).


Helmrich is best known for his book Alien Ocean – Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (2009), in which he alongside marine biologists explored the deep sea and marine microbes from the submarine Alvin and in the labs in Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and other oceanographic institutions.


In Sounding the Limits of Life Helmreich uses sounding as an analytic to bring together earlier published essays in order to ask questions like What is life? What is water? What is sound? Following scientist to the limits of these categories, Helmreich looks at how life, water and sound are at once abstractions as well as empirical phenomena. Giving a critical account of other-than-human entities such as microbes, coral reefs, seawater and seashells, Helmreich attempts to make sense of how naturalcultural worlds are being created in a time of global change and climate crisis.


Our discussion will focus on the following essays:

-        Chapter 1: What is life? Answers from Three Limit Biologies

-        Chapter 2: Life Forms: A Keyword Entry (with Sophia Roosth)

-        Chapter 5: How Like a Reef: Figuring Coral, 1829-2010

-        Chapter 8: Nature/Culture/Seawater: Theory Machines, Anthropology, Oceanization

-        Chapter 12: Seashell Sound


The prologue “The Sounding Life, Water, Sound” and the epilogue “Life, Water, Sound Resounding” is also relevant to read.


The discussion will be kicked off with a short introduction by BLUE member Johanne Tarpgaard. We hope to reserve the first part of the discussion for what inspires us in Helmreichs essays, what we learn from them and how they help us think about our own individual research, while the second part of the discussion is open to critique of the essays’ omissions and weaknesses.


The workshop will be held on Zoom. To sign up for the workshop send an email to Johanne Tarpgaard at tarpgaard@cas.au.dk.


Please feel free to forward the invitation to friends and colleagues.