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Metaphors of identity, recognition and connection in the 20th century – cell biology and literature

Every knowledge-based discipline proceeds trough history by coining new terms. In the present project we shall study one of the most iconic terms in biology: the cell. The word “cell” comes from the Latin cella, i.e. small room. It originally referred to a mere envelope to be filled by living essence. Nevertheless, it became progressively clear that cells are at the origin of all organism’s development, they are alive and dynamic systems. It shall not come as a surprise that culture, politics, literature and science share a common vocabulary. Metaphors, analogies and word games are continuously interchanged between the various domains of human activity. During my stay at the Stellenbosch Institute I will be interested in identifying potential overlaps between “cell biology terms”, historical facts and literary pieces that emerged during the last century. My hypothesis is that by mapping the common metaphors, a narrative will emerge: starting with borders and identity, progressing into contact and recognition, and eventually developing into connection and networking. Additionally, our work intends to investigate to which extent the history of the term “Cell” grasps essential features and mechanisms of life itself.


Fellows involved in this project

USA / Brasil

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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].