In his 1966 work The Order of Things, Michel Foucault describes in his preface a passage from Borges to establish his objective. Quoting Borges, who in turn refers to ‘a certain Chinese encyclopaedia’, the section describes a classification of animals as being ‘divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In a later lecture recalled by Laurie Taylor, Foucault lambasted the impulse to capture and mount every butterfly in a genus and lay them out on a table, to highlight minute differences in form and colour, as if trying to solve God’s puzzle.
The fifth Economy and Society Summer School this week was an immersion in critique, ecology and theology, and this is a quick summary. Held in the wonderful surroundings of Blackwater Castle, and adorned in splendid sunlight for the duration, my own interests in politics and technology found good company and themes that illuminated my research. Organised by Dr Tom Boland and Dr Ray Griffin, it is becoming an important resource for students of sociology and culture in Ireland and beyond. While for me there are new avenues and new subjects to investigate, it has nevertheless begun to reveal a direction for a more extended research.