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Doctoral contract pertaining to the “Anthropology of the modeling of life and the construction of artificial living systems”

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General information

Reference : UMR7130-PERPIT-001
Workplace : PARIS 05
Date of publication : Thursday, June 25, 2020
Scientific Responsible name : Perig Pitrou
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2020
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

Entitled “Anthropology of the modeling of life and the construction of artificial living systems”, the thesis aims to develop a typology of the projects of life modeling and construction of artificial living systems, according to whether they build systems around human needs or design non-humanized environments. From the perspective of the Anthropology of Life and of the Science & Technology Studies, the candidate will examine the techniques used to objectify the characteristics of life, by reproducing its functioning. The types of social interactions that develop around –and within– these technical devices, the influence of socio-historical contexts, the role of mathematical formalization, the intervention of robotic and artificial intelligence systems, the types of chemical and biological processes mobilized to experiment with evolutionary phenomena will be the subject of an interdisciplinary investigation to identify conceptions of life as it is –but also as it may be, with recent advances in the field of astrobiology also being mobilized.
The candidate will carry out case studies, using the ethnographic method of participatory observation, to identify relevant axes for comparing projects carried out in the fields of ecological modeling, “terraformation”, astrobiology, construction of microenvironments, space exploration and social robotics. In close collaboration with the researchers involved in the SYVIE project, the sites of investigation will be selected on the basis of the candidate's skills and previous experience. Research missions are already planned to take place at Biosphere 2. After having been the largest closed ecological system in the world, Biosphere 2 is now a place in and around which several major modeling projects are being deployed, such as the Landscape Evolution Observatory, the Lunar Greenhouse, the various Biomes (Tropical forest, Fog Desert, Ocean and Coral Reef, Coastal Mangrove), the Rockincubator and the Critical Zone Project.

Work Context

This thesis is prepared in the framework of the interdisciplinary programme “Closed Systems and Life Modeling” (SYVIE) supported by the MITI of CNRS / APP 80 Prime. Based on a reflection initiated by the “Anthropology of Life” team (Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, Collège de France, Paris), SYVIE wishes to develop an interdisciplinary analysis methodology to study artificial systems that seek to imitate living systems and exert control over them in closed environments.
The candidate will enroll in a PhD programme at EHESS, Paris, under the supervision of Perig Pitrou, Research Professor at CNRS ( and will join Doctoral School 286 (Social Anthropology and Ethnology). He or she will be attached to the “Anthropology of Life” team, in close collaboration with the researchers involved in the SYVIE project: Régis Ferrière (iGLOBES, UMI 3157), François Guyot (Institut de Minéralogie de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie, MNHN) and Ludovic Jullien (PASTEUR, ENS/Sorbonne University). PSL University's research programme “Origins and Conditions of the Appearance of Life” will also provide the intellectual environment for fruitful, interdisciplinary dialogue.

Constraints and risks

The candidate will be hosted in the Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, in Paris and by iGLOBES, the CNRS international and interdisciplinary research centre in Tucson, Arizona, during fieldwork research at Biosphere 2. Missions, both national and international, in other sites of investigation are planned.

Additional Information

Holder of a Master's degree in Humanities or Social Sciences, the candidate is expected to have a first ethnographic experience and a very good knowledge of the field of Science & Technology Studies. Based on his or her fields of expertise, the candidate should be able to articulate the analysis of empirical data with a theoretical reflection on the definition of life as a systemic phenomenon and on the epistemological problems raised by the different ways in which technical and vital processes are intertwined.
Deadline for applications 30 August 2020.
The candidate is to submit his or her résumé and thesis project, as well as and a Master's degree certificate (or a letter from the supervisor indicating the date of the defense, which must take place before 1 October 2020).

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