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Zeynep Çelik Alexander
Associate Professor, Columbia University

“Herbarium, Garden, Plantation”

If landscapes across the world were transformed in the nineteenth century through the systematic transplantation of such products as tea, tobacco, and cinchona, it was due to a modern botanical network that connected herbaria to gardens and plantations around the globe. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London played an important role in this history by negotiating between the nodes of this network. This talk focuses on the operations of the Kew Herbarium in the late nineteenth century in an attempt to understand the mechanics of its information management technologies. How, by simply arranging and rearranging paperwork in London, could bureaucrats move knowledge, labor, and capital in the West Indies, in India, and in other colonies? How exactly was this botanical network held together? And, what can the history of such a “proto-database” tell us about the epistemic regime of data in which we live today?

Thursday, April 2, 12:15 pm
38 West 86th Street, Seminar Room

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Zeynep Çelik Alexander’s work focuses on the history and theory of architecture since the Enlightenment. After being trained as an architect at Istanbul Technical University and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, she received her PhD from the History, Theory, and Criticism Program at M.I.T. Alexander is the author of Kinaesthetic Knowing: Aesthetics, Epistemology, Modern Design (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2017), a history of an alternative mode of knowing—non-propositional, non-linguistic, and based on the movements of the body—that gained saliency in the nineteenth century and informed the epistemological logic of modernism in the German-speaking world. She co-edited, with John J. May (Harvard University), Design Technics: Archaeologies of Architectural Practice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020), a collection of essays that examines the histories of techniques that have come to dominate contemporary design disciplines. She has also published in numerous venues, including Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, New German Critique, Harvard Design MagazineLoge-fluxGrey Room, Journal of Design History, and Centropa as well as several edited volumes. Çelik Alexander is a member of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, an editor of the journal Grey Room, and a co-director of Columbia’s Center for Comparative Media. She is currently at work on a new book that explores nineteenth-century architectures of bureaucracy from the Kew Herbarium to the Larkin Administration Building.