Calendar of Events

Spring 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015
Jake Kosek (Geography, UC-Berkeley)
Honeybee
Homo-Apians: A Critical Natural History of the Modern Honeybee
3:30 pm Curtin 175
Recorded video (Mediasite, with slides)
Recorded video (YouTube, without slides)

For centuries, bees and their social habits have captivated the sentiments and interests not only of entomologists and beekeepers, but of royal families, physicists, social theorists, criminologists, and political economists. From Mandeville to Marx, Ricardo to Polanyi, Aristotle to Arendt, Smith to Keynes and far beyond, bees have served as one of the most pernicious technologies for understanding the logics and pathologies of the human collective in general and the inherent rationale of the market in particular.

At the same time, while bees have served as metaphors, material actors, and models for the social, they themselves have been transformed radically by these understandings, both in the collective form of the hive and their individual genetic makeup.

In this talk, Jake Kosek treats bees and humans not merely as two different animals in a relationship but as mutually constituted—homo apians, if you will—two species cooked together in the same modern pot. This understanding—that humans and bees come into being together—gives us different ways of approaching and comprehending the current conditions of the honeybee and its futures. Kosek argues that ultimately honeybees are both a constitutive part of modernity and a means of understanding its unraveling.


Brown bag lunch discussion
Friday, February 6
12 noon Curtin 939
Reading: Jake Kosek, "Ecologies of Empire: On the New Uses of the Honeybee," Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 4 (2010): 650-678.


Jake Kosek is associate professor of geography at the University of California, Berkeley. He uses conceptual insights from geography, anthropology, science studies, and theories of history to develop new approaches to natural history as both an object of critical inquiry and a conceptual tool.

His research examines manifestations of natural history in the present, exploring contemporary taxonomies and varieties of nature, charting their resonance and discord with fossilized formations of prior natures. His projects include
  • a social political history of the swarm, exploring how the flow of knowledge between bees and human collective behavior has remade discourses of modern citizenship and populations
  • an investigation of the biopolitics of criminality, weaving 18th- and 19th-century concepts of nature into contemporary bio-political discourses of law, race and justice
  • a natural history of nanotechnology, tracing the history and politics of scale from scala naturae, one of the oldest hierarchical ordering of natures, to the contemporary political and cultural contexts that underlie scientific quests to remake the order of modern nature at the nanoscale.
He is the author of Understories: The Political Life of Forests in New Mexico (2006) and Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference (2003).


UWM Year of the Humanities






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