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In the Shadow of the Tree: The Diagrammatics of Relatedness as Scientific, Scholarly, and Popular Practice

Applicant Sommer Marianne
Number 183567
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Seminar für Kulturwissenschaften und Wissenschaftsforschung Universität Luzern
Institution of higher education University of Lucerne - LU
Main discipline Interdisciplinary
Start/End 01.02.2019 - 31.01.2023
Approved amount 2'997'169.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Interdisciplinary
Philosophy
General history (without pre-and early history)

Keywords (9)

social history; genealogy; history of biology; history of law; kinship; diagrams; history and philosophy of science; history of anthropology; family tree

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Das Projekt untersucht die enorme Vielfalt von Diagrammen, die seit dem Mittelalter in Westeuropa und in Räumen der europäischen Expansion verwendet wurden, um Verwandtschaft und Abstammung zu konzeptualisieren.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

In den letzten drei Jahrzehnten hat die Sequenzierung und Analyse von Genomen eine schnelle und umfassende Bestimmung von Abstammung, Herkunft und Verwandtschaft zwischen Organismen, einschließlich Menschen, ermöglicht. Hat die Arbeit am ‘tree of life’ unerwartete evolutionäre Affinitäten ans Licht gebracht, so verändern Einsichten der Populationsgenetik und Untersuchungen der DNA von Individuen Vorstellungen von Identität. Parallel dazu setzen sich neue digitale Methoden zur Visualisierung von genealogischen Beziehungen durch. Sie tendieren aufgrund einer langen kultur- und wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Tradition zur Form des Baums und widerspiegeln Annahmen, wonach Evolution und Abstammung einem gabelnden Muster folgen. Das ‘Baumdenken’ wurde schon als dominanter Denkmodus der Biologie und sogar als allgemeine westliche Tendenz bezeichnet, Verwandtschaft auf Abstammung zu reduzieren.

Anstatt allein die Geschichte des Baumdiagramms zu verfolgen, analysieren wir vergleichend verschiedenste Formen von Verwandtschaftsdiagrammen, ihre Herstellung und Verwendung. Dafür entwickeln wir eine Diagrammatik, die Diagramme als Techniken analysiert, die über binäre Oppositionen wie ‘Denken/Handeln’ und ‘Bild/Text’ hinausgehen.

 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Das Projekt verbindet kulturwissenschaftliche, wissenschaftshistorische und -philosophische sowie anthropologische Perspektiven zu einer interdisziplinären Diagrammatik. Es initiiert Diskussionen über die Hypothese, dass Baumdenken die westliche Wissensproduktion strukturiere und reflektiert den politischen Einsatz von Verwandtschaftsdiagrammen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.11.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The Meaning of Absence: The Primate Tree That Did Not Make It into Darwin’s The Descent of Man
Sommer Marianne (2021), The Meaning of Absence: The Primate Tree That Did Not Make It into Darwin’s The Descent of Man, in BJHS Themes, 6, 1-17.
Punnett Squares and Hybrid Crosses: How Mendelians Learned Their Trade by the Book
Müller-Wille Staffan (2020), Punnett Squares and Hybrid Crosses: How Mendelians Learned Their Trade by the Book, in BJHS Themes, 5, 1-17.
How Does Economic Knowledge Have a Politics? On the Frustrated Attempts of John K. Galbraith and Robert M. Solow to Fix the Political Meaning of Economic Models in The Public Interest
Hounshell Eric, Halsmayer Verena (2020), How Does Economic Knowledge Have a Politics? On the Frustrated Attempts of John K. Galbraith and Robert M. Solow to Fix the Political Meaning of Economic Models in The Public Interest, in KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge, 4(2), 263-293.
Review: German Science in the Age of Empire. Enterprise, Opportunity and the Schlagintweit Brothers
PfäffliLea (2020), Review: German Science in the Age of Empire. Enterprise, Opportunity and the Schlagintweit Brothers, in Traverse, 1, 189.
Verzagte Schlittenhunde. Von Gefühlen und Tieren in der kolonialen Arktis
PfäffliLea (2020), Verzagte Schlittenhunde. Von Gefühlen und Tieren in der kolonialen Arktis, in Tierstudien, 17, 59-69.
Arktisches Wissen. Schweizer Forscher und dänischer Kolonialhandel in Grönland (1908-1913)
Pfäffli Lea, Arktisches Wissen. Schweizer Forscher und dänischer Kolonialhandel in Grönland (1908-1913), Campus, Frankfurt am Main.
Corners, Tables, Lines: Towards a Diagrammatics of Race
Müller-Wille Staffan, Corners, Tables, Lines: Towards a Diagrammatics of Race, in Nuncius, 36, 1.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Theodore M. Porter, Department of History, UCLA United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Cornelius Borck, Institut für Medizingeschiche und Wissenschaftsforschung, Lübeck Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Michaela Hohkamp, Historisches Seminar, Hannover Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Amir Teicher, Department of History, Tel Aviv University Israel (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Stéphane Jettot, Sorbonne, Paris France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Helen Gardner, Deakin University Melbourne Australia (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, MPIWG Berlin Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Markus Friedrich, Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaften, Hamburg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Jean-Paul Zuñiga, EHESS, Paris France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Olivier Doron, Univ. Paris Diderot France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Ariane Dröscher Italy (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Elisabeth Timm, Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Münster Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Charlotte Bigg, Centre Alexandre-Koyré, EHESS, Paris France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Seminar -- The Politics of Economics Individual talk How Does Economic Knowledge Have a Politics? On the Frustrated Attempts of John K. Galbraith and Robert M. Solow to Fix the Political Meaning of Economic Models in The Public Interest 23.02.2021 Cambridge, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Hounshell Eric;
Jahrestagung SGWSG 2020: Arbeit im Wandel: Technische Umbruche, soziale Konflikte und geopolitische Herausforderungen Talk given at a conference Abstammung als Mittel zur Befreiung von Zwangsarbeit im Andenraum des 17. und 18. Jh. 29.01.2021 Bern, Switzerland Miguez Julian Angel;
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolloquium, Uni-LU Individual talk Ethnic classification between Austria and the US, ca. 1850-1920s 18.12.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Hounshell Eric;
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolloquium, Uni-LU Individual talk Populationsgenetische Repräsentationen menschlicher Vielfalt unter der Prämisse von Admixtur (2000–2020) 11.12.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Amstutz Ruth;
Bibliotheca Hertziana Research Seminar Individual talk Division and Affinity: Visualizing Diversity in Natural History, 17th ‒ 18th Centuries 09.12.2020 Rome, Italy Goersch Niklaas; Müller-Wille Staffan;
An Personalakten arbeiten Beitrage und Herausforderungen, methodische und ethische Grenzen Talk given at a conference Patient.innen eine Stimme geben? Ethiken historischen Arbeitens mit Krankengeschichten 19.11.2020 Fribourg, Switzerland Kuster Amos;
Geschichtskontor Individual talk Limpios de toda raça de judios, moros, mestizos y mulattos? Abstammungs-proben im kolonialen Hispanoamerika 10.11.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Miguez Julian Angel;
History of the Human Sciences Authors' Workshop Individual talk Affinities: Tabular and Diagrammatic Representations of Natural Order in the Long Eighteenth Century 29.10.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Müller-Wille Staffan;
History of the Human Sciences Authors' Workshop Individual talk Making Anthropology Diagrammatic: Samuel George Morton’s ‘American Golgotha’ and the Contest for the Definition of a Young Field 29.10.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Sommer Marianne;
History of the Human Sciences Authors' Workshop Individual talk The Emergence of Tree-Shaped Kinship Diagrams at the End of the Middle Ages 29.10.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Teuscher Simon;
Mittelbausymposium der Jungen Zürcher Mediävistik Individual talk Eine Diagrammatik ohne Diagramme? Beobachtungen zu protestantischen Inzestverboten im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert 29.10.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Prieto Stéphanie;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Antonio de Rojas: Eine Odyssee zum Beweis des Mestizostatus Einleitung 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Miguez Julian Angel;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Comment on J. C. F. Fryer, "An Investigation by Pedigree Breeding into the Polymorphism of Papilio polytes, Linn" 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Ceccon Andrea;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Jungius uber Mathematik, Naturlehre und Philosophie (Antrittsrede, Manuskript, Brief) 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Goersch Niklaas;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Comment on Matthew Parker, «An Admonition. To all suche as shall intende hereafter to enter the state of Matrimony Godly, and agreably to Lawes» 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Prieto Stéphanie;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Ethnography and Linguistics of Alpine and Central Europe, ca. 1870s-1920s. Comment on Meringer. 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Hounshell Eric;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Genealogische Dreiecksdiagramme: Eine fur Basel spezifische Darstellungsweise? 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Vicent Fiona;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Kommentar zu den Quellen: 4 Stammbäume 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Kuster Amos;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 Individual talk Comment on Paabo, "The mosaic that is our genome" 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland Amstutz Ruth;
Relationen erfassen. Zur Epistemologie des Diagramms Individual talk Darstellung von Admixtur in der humanpopulationsgenetischen Literatur 06.05.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Amstutz Ruth;
Relationen erfassen. Zur Epistemologie des Diagramms Individual talk Drawing Continuity: The Making of Bourgeois Family Trees 06.05.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Vicent Fiona;
Relationen erfassen. Zur Epistemologie des Diagramms Individual talk Agricola, Ramus und die Einfuhrung von Klammerdiagrammen 06.05.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Goersch Niklaas;
Relationen erfassen. Zur Epistemologie des Diagramms Individual talk Peirce's Semiotics and Mendelian Genetics 06.05.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Ceccon Andrea;
Relationen erfassen. Zur Epistemologie des Diagramms Individual talk Beziehungen von Diagrammen 06.05.2020 Luzern, Switzerland Kuster Amos;
Videoabstracts und Storytelling für HistorikerInnen Talk given at a conference Eine kurze Geschichte der Abstammungsproben 10.02.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Miguez Julian Angel;
Annual Conference of the American Historical Association Talk given at a conference Mobilizing Canon Law Conceptualizations of Kinship: From Incest Prohibitions to Definitions of Belonging and Inequality 03.01.2020 New York, NY, United States of America Teuscher Simon;
Kolloquium der DFG-Kollegforschergruppe Imaginarien der Kraft, Universität Hamburg Individual talk Affinitäten. Zur Geschichte eines transdisziplinären Konzepts um 1800. 10.12.2019 Hamburg, Germany Müller-Wille Staffan;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Verfahren zur Feststellung von Abstammung und Rasse im iberischen Raum 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Miguez Julian Angel;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Registering Doom -- Pathological Genealogies 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Kuster Amos;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Incest Prohibitions and the Protestant Reformation: Systematizing Kinship without Diagrams 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Prieto Stéphanie;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Relatedness and Social Classification 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Hounshell Eric;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference 'Diagrams of 'Race' in Human Population Genetics and Critical Theory: Zum aktuellen Stand des Forschungsvorhabens 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Amstutz Ruth;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference The Age of Affinity: Diagrams in Natural History, 17th to early 19th Century 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Goersch Niklaas;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference The Role of Diagrams in Canonizing and Popularizing Mendelian Genetics 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Ceccon Andrea;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Drawing Continuity: The Making of Bourgeois Family Trees 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Vicent Fiona;
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 Talk given at a conference Verwandschaft im Blick. Zirkulation diagrammatischer Techniken in der Verwandtschaftsethnologie, 1850-1975 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany Pfäffli Lea;
Master-/Doktoratskolloquium Teuscher Individual talk Vorstellung laufender Dissertationen: Verfahren zur Feststellung von Abstammung und Rasse im iberischen Raum 24.10.2019 Zürich, Switzerland Miguez Julian Angel;
International Conference Collections, Knowledge, and Time, Medical Museion Talk given at a conference Legacies of a Bean Counter: Reflections on Some Objects Left by Wilhelm Johannsen (1857–1927) 08.10.2019 Copenhagen, Denmark Müller-Wille Staffan;
Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie Talk given at a conference Measuring Kinship -- A Western Obsession? (Commentary) 30.09.2019 Konstanz, Germany Müller-Wille Staffan;
Structuring Nature: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Summer School Talk given at a conference Joachim Jungius's View on Nature in the Context of Natural History 28.07.2019 Berlin, Germany Goersch Niklaas;
Die natürliche Ordnung: Konflikte, Brüche und Kontinuitäten im Naturverständnis von 1600 bis 1900 Talk given at a conference Ecken, Tafeln, Linien: Zur Topologie des Rassebegriffs 13.06.2019 Graz, Austria Müller-Wille Staffan;
Conference in Honor of Enriq Porqueres Talk given at a conference Consanguinity with and without blood 27.05.2019 Paris, France Teuscher Simon;
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolloquium für BA- und MA-Studierende sowie (Post)-Doktorierende Individual talk "The genealogical method." Zirkulation diagrammatischer Techniken in der Verwandtschaftsethnologie, 1850-1975 25.03.2019 Luzern, Switzerland Pfäffli Lea;
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolloquium für BA- und MA-Studierende sowie (Post)-Doktorierende Individual talk Regimes of Social Classification in Twentieth Century Central Europe 18.03.2019 Luzern, Switzerland Hounshell Eric;
Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolloquium für BA- und MA-Studierende sowie (Post)-Doktorierende Individual talk Die genetisch-genealogische Diagrammatik von 'Rasse' 11.03.2019 Luzern, Switzerland Amstutz Ruth;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Guest Lecture by Marina Belobrovaja (Luzern), "The DNA Project" 04.12.2020 Luzern, Switzerland
Guest Lecture by Stefanie Claudine Boulila (Lucerne), "Feministische Widerstande gegen Intersektionalitat" 13.11.2020 Lucerne, Switzerland
History of the Human Sciences Authors' Workshop 29.10.2020 Luzern, Switzerland
SNF Sinergia Workshop 3 28.09.2020 Basel, Switzerland
In the Shadow of the Tree: The Diagrammatics of Relatedness as Scientific, Scholarly, and Popular Practice. Conference 1 (canceled due to covid-19) 02.04.2020 Lucerne, Switzerland
SNF Sinergia Workshop 2 28.10.2019 Lübeck, Germany
SNF Sinergia Workshop 1 incl. Data Management Plan 05.04.2019 Lucerne, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
«Grönland 1912» (based on L. Pfäffli dissertation and sources collected) Performances, exhibitions (e.g. for education institutions) 06.02.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Pfäffli Lea;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Baume der Beziehungen (Bericht übers Projekt von Fiona Vicent) Uni Nova - Das Wissenschaftsmagazin der Universität Basel International German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Die andere Klimakrise: Als die Schweiz eine Eiszeit fürchtete 08.02.2020 Aargauer Zeitung/Luzerner Zeitung/CH Media German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Im Schatten des Baumes: Forschung an der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Fakultat Jahresbericht der Universität Luzern German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Talks/events/exhibitions L. Pfäffli tour at Landesmuseum Zürich, 05.03.2020 German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Stöbern nach Identität (interview with Marianne Sommer) Horizonte: Das Schweizer Forschungsmagazin German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Wie die NZZ die Polarforschung antrieb 7.2.2020 Neue Zürcher Zeitung German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Interview mit Marianne Sommer: In einem Diagramm stecken viele Entscheidungen cogito: Das Wissenschaftsmagazin der Universität Luzern International German-speaking Switzerland 2019
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Talk im Turm: «Reich sein. Erben, Glück und gutes Tun.» (S. Teuscher Podium Discussion Podcast)) UZH Magazin Podcast German-speaking Switzerland 2019

Awards

Title Year
Prix de Quervain 2020

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
135055 Königsfelden und sein Adel: Annäherungen an eine neue Sozialgeschichte 01.05.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)
145387 Visibility Matters: Rendering Human Origins and Diversity in Space and Time 01.04.2013 Scientific Conferences
112788 Geschlecht sichtbar machen - Das Diagramm in der Geschichte der Paläoanthropologie 01.02.2006 International short research visits

Abstract

In the past three decades, whole-genome sequencing and analysis have created unprecedented capacities for the rapid and copious determination of ancestry, descent, and kinship among organisms, including humans. Work on the ‘tree of life’ has brought to light unexpected evolutionary affinities, and the possibility to study the genetic make-up of human populations as well as to identify the place of individual human DNA within ‘the human family tree’ has impacted our understandings of relatedness. In parallel, new digital methods to visualize such relations have proliferated. Drawing on a long cultural and scientific history, such visualizations tend to take the form of a tree, reflecting the assumption that evolution and descent follow a bifurcating pattern. ‘Tree thinking’ has therefore been identified as a dominant mode of thought and the tree as a canonical icon in modern biology. Indeed, tree thinking has been made out as a general modern Western rationale that reduces relatedness to descent.Although the tree does appear as a structuring device for organismic relatedness in religion, law, genealogy, natural history, biology, anthropology, psychiatry, eugenics, genetics, etc., from the Middle Ages to the present, there seems to be a more dynamic history of conceptualizing and visualizing relatedness both in terms of descent and otherwise. Naturalists around 1800, f.e., preferred the network to explore ‘natural affinities’ among organisms rather than descent. Furthermore, diagrams that look like trees do not necessarily embody their logic of embranchment. Many medieval and early modern ‘forerunners’ of tree diagrams actually depict linear relations of descent, while modern family trees may be pervaded by a reticulate logic derived from understandings of kinship laid down in canon law. Such complicated connections between diagram and meaning suggest a set of questions: What different understandings of relatedness are associated with particular visualizations, and what are their respective social and political implications, f.e. with respect to incest prohibition, (male) hereditary succession of power and wealth, or the determination of ‘purity of blood and race’? Why did evolutionary anthropologists prefer to visualize human evolution as proceeding through independent and isolated lines that continually split to form new lines? What does it mean that eugenicists and human geneticists analyzed inheritance on the basis of pedigrees that placed equal emphasis on maternal and paternal contributions? And what can be learned from the drafting, discarding, or redrafting of family trees by laypeople? This project will be the first to investigate the bewildering variety of diagrams that have been used to conceptualize, determine, and produce relatedness in Western Europe and in spaces of European expansion since the Late Medieval Period. We seek to understand the enormous influence that tree diagrams have had in certain domains, and posit that this success can only be adequately understood by, first, attending to alternatives, such as the scale, the circle, or the net, and secondly, by shifting focus from the iconography of such diagrams to their production and use as well as the transformations of their meanings. Developing a new understanding of diagrammatics as an interdisciplinary approach that analyzes diagrams as techniques that transcend such binaries as ‘thought and action’ and ‘image and text’, we also significantly go beyond the existing literature on a methodological level. Rather than tracing the history of a particular idea or icon, we offer a comparative analysis of diagrams of relatedness as epistemic, cultural, and political practices.
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