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What is special about the gene?


A one day arts and humanities interdisciplinary symposium

Tuesday 11 September 2007, Cardiff University

Speakers include:


The gene seems to have captured the public imagination and to exercise a fascination and symbolic influence in many fields outwith the context of its scientific discovery and usage. Like the atom, and a few other scientifically-derived concepts, the gene appears to overflow with secondary metaphors, entailments and projections that have significance for individuals, groups, activities and worldviews well beyond the laboratory bench. Possibly the symbolic traction of this concept/symbol will make it as significant in human social thought, imagination, and development as the notion of evolution itself.

This symposium for 30-40 participants forms part of an ongoing project looking at the symbolic and cultural significance and meanings of the gene and genetics. It aims to harness arts and humanities insights and methods into a dialogue about understanding the significance of the gene. It is also concerned with the impact the gene and genetics might have on the shaping of arts and humanities disciplines and the things that they seek to understand and study.

The six main presenters at this symposium, all leading arts and humanities scholars drawn from a range of disciplines such as literature, history, religious studies, anthropology, linguistics, and philosophy, have been invited, from their own disciplinary perspective, to address the question, What, if anything, is special about the gene? They will do this having regard to the need to take specific examples, and to address an interdisciplinary audience. While humanities academics will be the main presenters, other participants will come from a range of scientific and humanities disciplines to enrich critique and dialogue. Scholars who have so far accepted invitations to make presentations include: Professor Tim Ingold FBA (anthropologist), Professor Alison Wray (linguistic theorist), Professor Lenny Moss (philosopher), Dr Roberta Bivins (historian).

This will be a very exciting and unusual interdisciplinary event, bringing together scholars from all the main humanities disciplines to extend their insights and methods beyond their usual audiences and topics. If you would like to attend, please complete and return the registration form. There is a registration fee of £10 to cover meals and refreshments. The event is subsidised by the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

Further details of the symposium are available from the contacts below.


Andrew Edgar

Stephen Pattison

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