Ideals and Projects of Perfection

perfectly balancing rocks

Event details


Date & time

Wednesday 10 October 2018


Australian Centre on China in the World Seminar Room A


Keynote: Hirokazu Miyazaki (Northwestern University)


Associate Professor Matt Tomlinson

Please note this is a three-day event.

Please register for the components you wish to attend by clicking the Eventbrite links below.

October 10th afternoon: workshop for Masters students

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October 11th all day flagship conference

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October 12th morning: workshop for Bachelor of Asian Studies students

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October 12th afternoon: workshop for HDR candidates in CHL

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Perfection is impossible. We all know this, whatever fields we work in. Nonetheless, many scholars seek perfect theories; designers seek perfect machines; athletes seek perfect performance; and the religiously committed seek perfect souls. It is too simple for scholars in the humanities and social sciences to treat perfection as an unrealisable ideal and leave it at that. This flagship project analyses perfection as an ongoing process-a continuous working-upon grounded in the warrant that perfectibility is possible, a movement toward an ideal which, although perhaps unachievable, is considered worth attempting.

Some projects frame perfection in terms of completion, such as attempts to achieve comprehensive knowledge or ultimate-explanatory theories. Data gathering-archaeological, linguistic, digital-invites us to think about how different research technologies confront the ideal of a complete data set.

Other projects frame perfection in terms of their resistance to decay and disintegration: the body or machine that never breaks down and always produces. Capitalism has generated ideals of perfected labourers and commodities, technologies of resistance to social projects of perfectibility, and new incorporations of such resistance.

Yet others frame perfection in terms of aesthetics and meaningfulness, an ultimate architectonic harmony. Refinements of translation, the creation of comprehensive grammars and attempts to create new universal languages reveal ideals of linguistic perfection. Artistic endeavours often cultivate idealised forms of the sublime.

This flagship project explores the varied ways perfection is pursued and evaluates these projects' social and political stakes. When perfection is conjured as a hope, method, or ideal, what realities are devalued or excluded from view?

This is a three-day event encompassing student workshops and a series of presentations. Full program coming soon!

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster