Colonization and Science Networks Between Peripheries and the Center: The Case of the Naturalist Fritz Müller


Session Title:

  • Philosophy and Ethics of Bioart

Presentation Title:

  • Colonization and Science Networks Between Peripheries and the Center: The Case of the Naturalist Fritz Müller




  • The construction of scientific knowledge takes place far away from the periphery where data are collected. The peripheries with their ecosystems are the ones that, through the “transformation networks”, feed the centers with data collected in the midst of a diversity of phenomena. The correspondence and the exchange of specimens between Fritz Müller (1822-1897) and Charles Darwin characterize what Bruno Latour called transformation networks. Fritz Müller, who lived in Vale do Itajaí, southern Brazil, from 1852 to 1897, established a link with Charles Darwin and with other European researchers. As naturalist and researcher with the National Museum and as a Primary School teacher in the cities of Florianópolis and Blumenau Fritz Müller faces difficulties in adapting to the southern hemisphere and in the colonist life.

    The paper focuses on the science network between the German colony in the south of Brazil and the center with the European scientists and naturalists with whom Fritz Müller exchanged letters, and tries to map the plant specimens that he sent to Europe. Initially published in his paper entitled “Einige Worte über Leptalis” (1876), circular mimesis, or Müllerian Mimicry, as it became known, is a concept attributed to Fritz Müller’s discovery. The naturalist, in his observation of the flora and fauna, emphasized that when some species undergo a transformation process, they end up resembling one another. Mimesis and plagiarism have always been the conductors of new formulations and possible collaborations even in the essence of science. The concept is employed in the paper to refer to the naturalist’s procedure in his observation of the phenomena in loco in the forest and also to highlight that his observations could only be legitimized as science after the screening of the “transformation networks”. Transformation networks is the movement of the observation  carried out in the periphery that is legitimized as an abstract data in the calculation centers that promote an accumulation of knowledge, the surplus value of information. It is in the transformation network that intellectual control is exercised, and through it the centers are capable of representing phenomena that were previously out of their reach.

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