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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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How Like A Reef

How Like A Reef

Figuring Coral, 1839–2010

(p.48) Chapter 5 How Like A Reef
Sounding the Limits of Life

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the history of coral reef science by drawing on the work of the feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway. This history moves from early British preoccupations with coral structure, which had reefs as a sort of architecture, to anthropological visions of coral as a metaphor for culture, to reproductive ecological fascinations with the spawning sexways of corals, to contemporary readings of coral genomes for signs of reef health in the age of warming and acidifying seas. The chapter uses Haraway's notion of the “figure” to highlight change and continuity in coral science. It argues that coral reefs can attune their human visitors and inquisitors to empirical and epistemological questions of scale and context— where context, drawing upon a once-upon-a-time literal, but now more figurative, meaning, refers to a “weaving together.”

Keywords:   coral reef science, Donna Haraway, culture, feminist science studies, coral reefs

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