Rendering Life Molecular
Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter
Duke University Press 2015
New Books in AnthropologyNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network December 21, 2015 Carla Nappi
After reading Natasha Myers’s new book, the world begins to dance in new ways. Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter (Duke University Press, 2015) is a sensory ethnography of protein crystallographers that is based on five years of fieldwork conducted between 2003-2008 at a research university on the East Coast of the US. “Protein modelers are the scientists to watch in order to see what forms of life and what materialities are coming to matter in the twenty-first-century life sciences,” according to Myers, and the book bears out this statement. Those forms of life and materialities emerge from kinesthetic and affective entanglements created and navigated by the scientists in the course of their modeling work. Understanding that work – in part thanks to a thoughtful exploration of the notion of “rendering” that unfolds over the course of the book – helps us understand the ways that scientific knowledge is fundamentally embodied and gestural, and refigures scientific cultures as performance cultures. This is an exciting, inspiring book that is simultaneously a careful study of a particular local scientific culture, and a model for how to re-enchant our knowledge of the living world.