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Exaptive translations between biology and architecture

  • Chris L. Smith and Sandra Kaji-O'Grady


‘Translation’ is dealt with in this paper as a descriptor of the transformation that occurs as a concept, structure, image or notion is appropriated from one discipline to another. This understanding of translation as process or movement, rather than a field of overlap between disciplines, is facilitated by the work of the philosopher Michel Foucault. Foucault considers disciplinarity as the structural demarcation of knowledge and information (discourse) and the demarcations that are disciplined by knowledge. This understanding may be expressed as: disciplines as a disciplining. Foucault rejects the idea of disciplines as bounded self-similar content, arguing instead that disciplinarity lies in the framing of logics applied to content. The disciplines in question are considered in their contingency and temporality yet are not entirely bound by them. Thus, a coherent and organised discipline such as biology dates from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Before then its subject matters either were comprehended within other disciplinary frameworks (natural history) or were considered outside science itself (natural theology). In The Order of Things (1966), Foucault groups several naturalists, including Buffon (French eighteenth century) and Darwin (British nineteenth century), as belonging to the same ‘discourse’ or discursive family. Separating disciplinarity from the origin of ideas and time of writing fosters the productive translation of concepts, images and artefacts between disciplines.


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Exaptive translations between biology and architecture

  • Chris L. Smith and Sandra Kaji-O'Grady


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