An Archaeology of Darwin’s ‘Tree of Life’: Mark-making, Imagination and Becoming


Martyn Woodward

Charles Darwin’s influential diagram that depicts the evolution of the animal, plant and human form polarizes many discussions regarding the ‘origins’ of biological life, many of which focus critical analysis upon the study of the diagram in terms of the theory it represents. This seminar will not focus upon what the diagram may ‘represent’, but begin from the study of the diagram itself in terms of how it comes to represent – that is as set of marks that will be read as an embodiment of a particular way of being within the world.

Utilizing a media archaeological approach to the study of the development of depictions (Material Enagagement Theory) the seminar will focus attention upon the imaginary, cognitive, perceptual and material forces of a historically contingent human mind c 1859 that result in the marks that make up the form of the diagram itself. Situating this analysis within a ‘deeper’ archaeological study of the historical development of the depiction of genealogical trees, the seminar will point to a reading of Darwin’s diagram aiming to reveal the very multi-dimensional processes of becoming that lie within it’s very form and that some declare the diagram to not ‘represent’.