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4th Seminar. Optimization

Conference 12-13 September, 2019. With optimization as backdrop this conference addresses one of today’s major trends; human pursuits of improving, perfecting and making efficient.

2019.01.14 | Knud Holt Nielsen

Date Thu 12 Sep Fri 13 Sep
Time 09:00    16:00
Location ODEON, Odeons Kvarter 1, 5000 Odense C, Denmark
Registration has closed

Key note speakers:

  • Kane Race, University of Sydney
  • Linda Hogle, University of Wisconsin 


Optimization was originally a concept used within the field of mathematics and computer science to denote efficient maximization of desired outputs. However, increasingly the term has entered both popular and academic discussions, here covering everything from modes of living and strategies for “making the most” of life to manners of improving businesses, organizations and societies. Anthropologists have, for long, been interested in the concept of technology, and in recent years contributed to the growing research field of optimization technologies. Common examples include studies on medical technologies such as plastic surgery, and pharmaceuticals used non-medically, spiritual technologies such as mindfulness, meditation and psychedelic drugs, and tracking technologies such as devices, apps, wearables and computer programs. Regardless of the specific technologies engaged, optimization pursuits are often associated with neoliberal regimes and are as such either celebrated or criticized in academic and public discourses alike. With a point of departure in the anthropology of technology, and the concept of optimization, this conference addresses one of today’s major trends, namely, human pursuits of improving, perfecting and making efficient. But rather than celebrating or critiquing these efforts and conceiving of them a-priori as predominantly neoliberal, the conference aims to serve as a platform for explorations of the historical, social, political, economic, and cultural particularities of optimization pursuits and their myriad of effects on people, places, organizations and societies. 

Program and abstracts

Download full program and abstracts





We invite papers that explore the use of optimization technologies, their moral and ethical implications and the way these technologies profoundly affect societies, organizations, political and economic life and, more fundamentally, what it means to be human. 

Download call for papers






Participation & Registration

 Participation is free and coffee and lunch will be provided during the two-day event. Registration is required. Students can participate but can not register for the event and lunch. 

Please register for the seminar here:

The number registered participants will be limited to 60. 

Register for the seminar