ASECS Board Member, Tita Chico (Prof, U of Maryland) will be delivering a talk on UB’s North Campus on Friday 3/6 at 11:00AM (Clemens 306) entitled “Robert Hooke’s Ant: Science, Scrutiny, and the Global 18th Century”
Robert Hooke’s Ant: Science, Scrutiny, and the Global 18th Century
Scrutiny is a process that may be imagined to lead to irrefutable conclusions and that also activates notions about the efficacy of ocular observation, the process of knowledge acquisition, and the status of small things. Yet if we turn to microscopy in the long eighteenth century, we see that scrutiny may promise such effects, but is likewise a technology that increases, rather than narrows, in scope. Robert Hooke’s Micrographia: or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses imagines the protocols of scrutiny as productive and irrefutable. However, Hooke’s Observation 44, “Of an Ant or Pismire,” reveals the ontologically destabilizing effects of scrutiny, yielding in this instance the associative and imperial qualities of natural philosophical observation. Hooke’s ant is an insect that resists microscopy’s scrutiny. It is also a specimen that reveals the ant as a powerful figure of racialized otherness and discrimination, detouring through a colonialist account of Barbardos. Subject to scientific scrutiny, Hooke’s ant not only crawls about the microscope slide and refuses to be seen properly, but also evokes the British slave economy, revealing that while scrutiny might well be a technology of ocular classification, it likewise contains within it the potential to reveal the fundamental incoherence and inequities of those same distinctions.