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The materialization of life itself

Posted Sep 01 2009 3:51pm

I just finished an application for a 2-year postdoc position with The Danish Council for Independent Research, entitled Materializing life – protein science and philosophy in the post-genomic age. The project aims to combine studies of protein research with recent philosophical thinking on materiality, and should hopefully be a way of developing some of the ideas that motivated this blog alongside my philosophical interests. Here is an abstract:

Postgenomic molecular biology seems to be moving into a new phase, one in which protein research features prominently. This project will engage with this fundamental shift in the life sciences which has been gaining momentum since the start of the new millennium, and which will likely come to change the frontiers of biomedicine for the foreseeable future. Through the efforts of protein researchers, life itself is becoming increasingly materialized, and these new developments have important consequences for how we understand the natural world and what it means to be human. By integrating current philosophical debates about the nature of materiality and the structure of the world around us with the changes in the post-genomic life sciences, the project aims to expand and contextualize the meanings and importance of the new knowledge gained about the proteome and protein interaction. These developments have, as it will be argued, strong parallels within philosophy and the humanities more generally, where new theoretical formations seize upon materiality and substance, abandoning a previous paradigm centred on language, codes, symbols and information. Understanding the world of proteins means making sense of them as physically and spatially located structures – it is this materialization of life itself that the project will engage with. Through a fully interdisciplinary approach, it will examine how the change from an informational to a substantive, morphological biomedicine will impact our ideas about life itself.

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