The State of Things: Towards a Political Economy of Artifice and Artefacts


A very interesting call for papers started making the rounds yesterday on various blogs and mailing lists, emanating from the Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy (CPPE) at the University of Leicester. “The State of Things: Towards a Political Economy of Artifice and Artefacts” conference is to take place between 29 April and 1 May 2009 at Leicester. It brings together the concerns of modern and classical forms of political economy regarding the nature of the capitalist mode of production with recent object-orientated inquiries into economic ordering that draw on actor-network theory, especially within economic sociology and science and technology studies. The deadline for proposals is 28 November 2008. The full call for papers is reproduced below.

Update [18 July 2008]: A nice PDF flyer is now also available.

Call for Papers, Presentations, and Interventions

The State of Things: Towards a Political Economy of Artifice and Artefacts

April 29th to May 1st, 2009

Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy, University of Leicester

Keynote speakers:

  • Tiziana Terranova, University of Naples L’orientale
  • Natalie Jeremijenko, New York University
  • Nick Dyer-Witheford, University of Western Ontario

In a more wistful moment, Marx asked what commodities would say if they could speak. Surely, if he listened long enough, they would have announced the various traumas of their exploitatative and violent birthing to him. Eventually, one imagines, they would have described the nature of the various forms of labour necessary for their production as the apparitionally elementary components of the capitalist mode of production.

So would the commodity’s autobiography be the same now, one wonders.

Today we live in a much different state of things: the artifice of artefacts is evident all around us. A parliament of communication technologies, from RFIDS to bluetooth devices, constantly exchange information and network all around and through us. Wireless networks of communication, control, and cooperation proliferate in mysterious ways, all speaking an infra-language of organization, inscribing new techniques of governance. But these networks have become all the more indiscernible by the open secret of their appearance.

Developments in Actor Network Theory and autonomist technoscience studies have made a turn towards the economic. What does this bode for the field of organization studies? Will these two movements join in an encompassing view of posthuman economic institutions? Will ANT provide the definitive answer to the interrelation of economics, politics and objects? These two yet separated strands of economy and politics might provide a good opportunity to revisit the problematics of objects and their commodification, combining them with more traditional approaches.

This conference therefore proposes a return to the study of objects and artifacts and the various logics and dispositifs that underlie the formation of their fields of power, while combining them with modern and more classical forms of political economy.

Themes could include, but are not limited to:

  • Protocols and networked governance
  • Diagrams and control
  • The return of resistentialism and insubordinate objects
  • Army ANTs and the bones left behind
  • ANT and the networks of economies
  • Imaginary futures and technological dis/utopian visions
  • The affective states of machinic interaction
  • Anachronous inquiries and steampunk dreams
  • P2P commons, conflict, and governance
  • Interpretative labor and semantic webs
  • Extended minds and their cognitive scaffolding
  • Posthuman artificing
  • Artefacts, black boxes and governance
  • The art of commodifying the artificed Network
  • Immaterial politics of networking
  • The estrangement of networks
  • Marx’s Laboratory Life vs. Engel’s Scallops

Please send proposals to Tanya Dean ( of 500 words or less by November 28th, 2008. Notification of acceptance will be provided by February 4th.

For more information go to or e-mail Simon Lilley (

Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “The State of Things: Towards a Political Economy of Artifice and Artefacts”

  1. ANT IS ...: Welcome to ANT IS ... Says:

    […] The full text of the call for papers is also available here. […]

  2. ANT IS ...: News Archive Says:

    […] The full text of the call for papers is also available here. […]

  3. ANTHEM » Blog Archive » From Marxism to ANT and back Says:

    […] it would be interesting to find out what happened at “The State of Things” conference earlier this year, which conducted some explorations along similar […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: