Collegium Helveticum
Ludwik Fleck Lecture

The Tragic Case of Cleanliness–Styles (Logics, Worlds) in Tension
Ludwik Fleck Lecture by Annemarie Mol


Venue & accessibility info: Meridian Hall, Collegium Helveticum

This is a public event. Participation is free of charge and registration is not required.

The lecture is followed by a small reception.

Fleck suggested that as scientists craft facts they do so informed by a particular style of thinking, a Denkstil. The facts, meanwhile, are not simply crafted for the sake of it. Instead, Fleck’s medical research had practical goals. It was embedded in what Annemarie Mol calls a Tun-stil (style of doing) and it generated Tatsachen–not just any Sachen, but a Tat.

Historical studies used to ask how a particular style of thinking (paradigm, disciplinary matrix) superseded another. Fleck recognized that they may co-exist in the present. Building on this, in this lecture Annemarie Mol explores different styles (repertoires, logics) related to cleanliness. In the hygienic style, concerned about infectious diseases, cleanliness is meant to prevent the travel of microbes from one body to another. In ecology, by contrast, cleanliness is marked by the absence of pollutants. Aesthetic cleanliness, in its turn, pleases the eyes and/or noses of its beholders. Each of these styles comes with its own relevant entities (realities, worlds): microbes, hosts, immune systems // pollutants, victims, concentrations // surfaces, smells, feelings–and so on. What is done in order to achieve cleanliness also differs–the tragedy being that the protective gear and soaps meant to serve hygiene, and the scrubbing and fragrances meant to further aesthetics, all risk to be polluting. This raises the question how happier forms of co-existence may be crafted.

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