In the past few years, the Actor-Network Theory of French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour has become a hotly debated topic in the humanities. From a philosophical perspective, his theory of things keeps being reevaluated: is it possible for “Human and Non-Human Actors” (Latour) to be analyzed as equally important actors? Does Latour's theory of a simultaneously “agency” of things and concepts indeed move beyond a subject-object relation, and if it does, how far does it in fact go?
Such questions, seemingly at odds with more common traditions of thought, are the centerpiece of research at the Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies. The Center, located at the University of Cologne (Germany), is dedicated to the study of change inherent in, and the comparative aspects of, cultural figurations - the particular objects, things and artifacts created by and in a given culture - as well as the potency of these figurations throughout history. Of special interest are such questions as how these concrete artifacts and the quotations and borrowings they engender shape social acts, and how transmitted cultural forms can be reinterpreted.
Can the questions of intention and phenomenality be correlated with the resistance of things and their forms? Thus, the Workshop at the University of Cologne focuses on questions of symmetry or dissymmetry between the world of “things” and “human beings”.