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Final Evaluation Colloquium 28-29 July 2014, Paris - Scope

16 June 2014
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Final Evaluation Colloquium
28-29 July 2014, Sciences Po, Paris

“The situation of the Moderns confronting the intrusion of Gaia - a philosophical simulation”

Provisional closing of the IME project  

The Inquiry into the Modes of Existence (an anthropology of the Moderns) project has entered its final year. In 2013 a provisional report was published and a website was made that both augmented the book and allowed readers to become co-inquirers. This site,, gave access not only to a vast collection of documents but also permitted the correction, revision and extension of the arguments put forward in the provisional report.

Thanks to a group of mediators, the propositions in the book were able to be discussed during twenty or so face-to-face meetings that brought together several hundred researchers and practitioners from around the globe, all of whose contributions enriched the site.

Time has come to take stock and begin revising the project. Over the course of a week from 21 to 25 July, in Paris, forty or so co-inquirers will draw their conclusions about this inquiry, an experiment that is entirely novel both for what it investigates (an anthropology of the Moderns) as well as for how it investigates (mediation through a digital humanities website).

The question remains however, to whom do we present the results of this project? The inquiry claims to change the image that the Moderns have of themselves ever since ecological mutations have transformed their situation. This alternative image is surprising, disturbing and enigmatic.

To test out the relevance of this claim, we have decided to simulate a diplomatic negotiation before this new actor we call Gaïa but whose form has yet to be defined. We do this so that the Moderns may be presented with a new definition of themselves.

This is obviously a simulation something between thought experiments and role-plays, in which everything is up for grabs and everything is negotiable. Nevertheless, as we enter this new territory, this Middle Ground, simulations seem to be the only viable way to explore speculative propositions.

To help us with this role-play, we have asked a small number of thinkers to receive our propositions and act as though they were representing Gaïa. We are calling them “chargé d’affaires”. We are not asking them to assess our work as though they were judges at an exam but to assist us in exploring these new figures with which we need to learn how to live: new representations of the Moderns, different understandings of the Earth, and other cultures that are no longer simply on ‘the road to development’. Evidently, each of these “chargés d’affaire” will understand his or her role as they see fit.  It will be, in a manner of speaking, a team sport where the rules will change as the game is played.

For the moment, those who have agreed to play for and against us are: Annemarie Mol, Simon Schaffer, Barbara Cassin, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Deborah Danowski, Peter Weibel, Peter Sloterdijk (to be confirmed), Dipesh Chakrabarty (by web conference).

They may not be necessarily familiar with the inquiry but they all understand the importance of this fourfold arena: those formerly known as Moderns, the ambassadors, the enigmatic figure of Gaïa, and finally, those whom the Moderns call the ‘others’ - and last but by no means least, the spectators who will be able to play, after a fashion, the role of the choir.

The mediators and co-inquirers, all of whom will have been in preparation the previous week, will meet their “chargé d’affaires” from 9 to 6 the 28 & 29 July at the Cacosmos amphitheater, 28 rue des Saints-Pères à Paris.

To begin with, we will be defining the roles and scripts of the participants. The first morning session will be dedicated to these delicate negotiations by the ‘verification of mandates’. We cannot imagine that there will a perfect agreement on who represents what and how each understands their role. All the more so since this is not an academic exercise but more of attempt to engage in diplomatic explorations. We will, as a result,  have to take the time to negotiate who meets whom as well as identify the sources of conflict.  

Following on from this, the peace propositions phase will begin (with recording of dissenting opinions). During this phase, the work from the previous week will be presented, discussed, evaluated, rejected or revived. It will be in this discussion, organized into themes, that the fate of the Inquiry will be decided.

During this last phase, probably on Tuesday afternoon, we will adding the task of sketching out the controversial figure of Gaïa.

The simulation will finish with a concert (5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.).

We are afraid all available places have been allocated, but we can put you on a waiting list, and will let you know by 16 July if a place comes up. If for whatever reason you cannot attend after having signed up, please let us know before the 15 July at so that we can give your place to someone else.

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