Getting Ahead of One's Self?

Thursday 10th April 2014
12 noon to 1.30pm, Building:One Bateman Lecture Theatre

Warwick Anderson (University of Sydney)

During the past thirty years, immunological metaphors, motifs, and models have come to shape much social theory and philosophy. It may seem that immunology has served to naturalize claims about self, identity, and sovereignty—perhaps most prominently in Jacques Derrida’s later studies. Yet the immunological science that functions as “nature” in these social and philosophical arguments is derived from interwar and Cold-War social theory and philosophy. Immunology can claim a complex, entangled history, derived from multiple cultural geographies of sensitivity and reactivity. Theoretical immunologists and social theorists knowingly have participated in this common culture. Thus the “naturalistic fallacy” in this case might be reframed as an error of categorization: its conditions of possibility would require ceaseless effort to purify and separate out the categories of nature and culture. The problem – inasmuch as there is a problem – therefore is not so much the making of an appeal to nature as assuming privileged access to an independent, sovereign category called “nature.” So, then, what is the nature of which we speak? Where is the immunological located?

This open seminar is part of a meeting on 'Immunitary Geographies', jointly organised by the Departments of Geography, History and Sociology, Politics and Anthropology and will be followed by a small workshop with further papers and more opportunity for discussion.

If you would like to join the workshop, please email Gail Davies ( or Nick Binney ( for further details and to register your interest.