Diagrammatic: Beyond Inscription?

  • Lynteris, C. (Organiser)
  • Lukas Engelmann (Organiser)
  • Caroline Humphrey (Organiser)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a conference


Diagrams inhabit a liminal space between representation and prescription, words and images, ideas and things. From key moments of scientific and intellectual innovation (Darwin’s tree-diagram, Levi-Strauss’s diagram of the raw and the cooked, Lacan’s L-scheme, Waddington’s epigenetic landscape image and Francis Crick’s DNA double helix sketch) to everyday uses in all spheres of social, political, economic and cultural life, the diagram seeks resemblance to the empirical yet aspires to generalization. Conversely, employed across the disciplines as a thinking tool, the diagram hence holds the promise of transforming abstract issues into graspable images and translating the unseen into intelligible and actionable form. Both convincing and misleading and always positioned at the threshold of vision and the unseen, diagrams operate as abstractive and constitutive components of empirical realities.

This conference aims to explore the interdisciplinary, shared traits of diagrammatic thinking so as to go beyond the notion of simplification, of “drawing information together”, which forms the usual analytical ground for understanding syntactic visualizations in the sciences and humanities. Rather than seeing diagrams as systems of linkages, the aim of the conference is to explore the dialectic of inscription and erasure as an inherent and generative trait of diagrammatic practices.

Questions to be raised in the conference revolve around the following themes: How does the visual and logical indeterminacy of diagrams, their resistance to being fully perceived as images or understood as logical arguments, define their operation as ways of reasoning? And to what extent does diagrammatic reasoning extend beyond the realm of diagrams as visual/textual objects? By bringing together ethnographic, historical and philosophical perspectives on the diagram, in its applications across the disciplines, this conference aims to explore its role at the pivot of modern transformations and aporias between abstraction and form.
Period2 Dec 20163 Dec 2016
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United KingdomShow on map