Topology and Morphogenesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


One can use mathematics not as an instrument or measure, or a replacement for God, but as a poetic articulation, or perhaps as a stammered experimental approach to cultural dynamics. I choose to start with the simplest symbolic substances that respect the lifeworld's continuous dynamism, temporality, boundless morphogenesis, superposability, continuity, density and value, and yet are independent of measure, metric, counting, finitude, formal logic, syntax, grammar, digitality and computability – in short, free of the formal structures that would put a cage over all of the lifeworld. I call these substances topological media. This article introduces elementary topological concepts with which we can articulate material and cultural change using notions of proximity, limit, and change, without recourse to number or metric. The motivation is that topology furnishes us with concepts well-adapted for poietically articulating the world as stuff, rather than objects with an a priori schema. With care, it may provide a fruitful approach to morphogenesis and cultural dynamics that is neither reductive nor anthropocentric. I will not pretend any systematic application of the scaffolding concepts introduced in this article. Instead, I would see what fellow students of cultural dynamics and cosmopolitics make of these concepts in their own work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-246
Number of pages27
JournalTheory, Culture & Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • continuity
  • cultural theory
  • individuation
  • poiesis
  • process philosophy
  • transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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