Archive for September, 2011

Silver Dreams

29 September 2011

To get your dose of Heideggerian nostalgia for Central European peasant life that is no more, check out the photos of my friend Zoltán Gyetvai, an ethnic Hungarian photographer from Slovakia. I say photographer, but in good Central European tradition he is something of a renaissance man: also a published poet, ethnographer, educator, community organiser, and electrical engineer (if I remember correctly), among other things.  Most of the photos I believe are from the Hungarian historical county of Gömör (now in Slovakia), with some from Transylvania thrown in for good measure. Ethnography for many Hungarian intellectuals in Slovakia is an exercise (or more like a duty) that is full of melancholy because it is aimed at not only documenting the disappearance of an old way of life but also the gradual assimilation of one’s own ethnic community. That all this has coincided with decades of economic decay during communism that has accelerated ever since also adds to the sombre mood of these photographs and the whole situation. This county has the highest unemployment in Slovakia and the population is in decline. Zoltán has been documenting a world that is disappearing in more senses than one.

P.S. I should add that these photos are not only of Hungarians but also of Romani (a large community in Gömör) and possibly Slovaks and others.

The Democracy of Objects by Levi Bryant

14 September 2011

Levi Bryant, The Democracy of ObjectsThe latest addition to object-oriented ontology: Levi Bryant of Larval Subjects fame publishes the HTML version of his new book, The Democracy of Objects. PDF and paper version to follow. This is the first book in the New Metaphysics series edited by Graham Harman and Bruno Latour at Open Humanities Press. Cover design by Katherine Gillieson, illustration by Tammy Lu.

Since Kant, philosophy has been obsessed with epistemological questions pertaining to the relationship between mind and world and human access to objects. In The Democracy of Objects, Bryant proposes that we break with this tradition and once again initiate the project of ontology as first philosophy. Drawing on the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman, as well as the thought Roy Bhaskar, Gilles Deleuze, Niklas Luhman, Aristotle, Jacques Lacan, Bruno Latour and the developmental systems theorists, Bryant develops a realist ontology that he calls “onticology”. This ontology argues that being is composed entirely of objects, properties, and relations such that subjects themselves are a variant of objects. Drawing on the work of the systems theorists and cyberneticians, Bryant argues that objects are dynamic systems that relate to the world under conditions of operational closure. In this way, he is able to integrate the most vital discoveries of the anti-realists within a realist ontology that does justice to both the material and cultural. Onticology proposes a flat ontology where objects of all sorts and at different scales equally exist without being reducible to other objects and where there are no transcendent entities such as eternal essences outside of dynamic interactions among objects.

Metaphysics and politics

6 September 2011

Adam Robbert of the Knowledge Ecology blog makes good use of The Prince and the Wolf in reflecting on the relationship between metaphysics and politics within the wider context of debates in speculative philosophy. An interesting post all around.

NYC gets real speculative

2 September 2011

See the punctum books blog for a detailed schedule for all the speculative realism/object-oriented ontology events coming up in New York City in the next couple of weeks. I hope these will be recorded and posted online. Who wouldn’t want to know “what causes space?” for instance?

Workshop: Performing ANT – Socio-Material Practices of Organizing

1 September 2011

On 17-18 February 2012 at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland). See further details at DASTS.

For this workshop we invite papers from early-career researchers (from doctoral through to assistant professor level) that explore the ways in which ANT and its inherent notion of performativity can be used to advance our understanding of socio- material practices of organizing. We encourage submissions both from the traditional areas of interest within organization and management studies, but also from related fields such as human geography, urban studies, anthropology, sociology and others, that attend to performative aspects of doing organizational research. In particular, we are looking for contributions that put an ANT account of performativity into dialogue with notions of ‘the performative’ from other fields such as (but not limited to) linguistics, gender and queer theory, performance studies, anthropology or sociology. We welcome papers that seek to make a conceptual contribution as well as those that bring to bear conceptual insights on method and empirical analysis, spurring our imagination for doing research in, on and around organizations.

The format of the workshop will be a small-group, intense discussion of a selection of about six papers. Three senior researchers have been invited to give a keynote address and act as discussants for the accepted papers:

  • John Hassard (University of Manchester)
  • Tor Hernes (Copenhagen Business School)
  • Steve Woolgar (tbc) (University of Oxford)

The organizers welcome paper proposals (maximum 500 words) by 15 October 2011. Upon acceptance, the selected participants will have to provide a full-length working paper as the basis for discussion by 15 January 2012. The workshop will take place at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland on 17 and 18 February 2012. Accommodation and meals will be provided free of charge. Please send your proposals to:, and

Harvard STS conference videos

1 September 2011

Somatosphere has posted several videos from the Science and Technology Studies: The Next Twenty conference that took place at Harvard on 7-9 April 2011. It includes the following:

Does STS Matter, and to Whom? 
Theodore Porter (UCLA) and Andrew Jewett (Harvard) discuss the relationship of Science and Technology Studies (STS) to other academic fields, policymakers, and practitioners.

STS and the Law: Reframing Rights 
Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard) and Douglas Kysar (Yale) discuss the recent edited volume “Reframing Rights.” The discussion centers on the biological sciences and their associated technologies as providing moments for society to ask fundamental questions about their “bioconstitutional” rights.

STS, Economics, and Sociology: Do Economists Make Markets? 
Pierre-Benoit Joly (Paris-Est and IFRIS) and David Stark (Columbia) discuss how STS research has affected work in economic sociology, and what other STS tools might be usefully applied.

Defining the Boundaries 
Kaushik Sunder Rajan (Chicago) gives a provocation for STS scholars to think again about STS’s close ties to post-colonial studies, with specific references to Indian life sciences in relation to the Western sciences. Discussants Javier Lezaun (Oxford) and David Winickoff (UC Berkeley) debate other “elsewheres” STS travels to, whether it could travel everywhere, and how best it travels.

STS on Difference
Steven Epstein (Northwestern) delivers a provocation on whether or not STS has made a difference, arguing that it has not done as much as it could. Nelly Oudshoorn (Twente) suggests some productive ways forward, and Sherine Hamdy (Brown) argued that STS scholars have missed opportunities by ignoring the linkages between science, religion, and difference.

Science and Technology Studies and the Public Sphere‬ 
Beginning with a provocation from Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard) this session discusses how the public sphere is viewed from within STS, followed by reflections from Myles Jackson (NYU Polytechnic) and Brian Wynne (Lancaster).

Opening the Black Box 
Trevor Pinch (Cornell) provokes this session by looking at where STS has gone and where it is going. David Kaiser (MIT) continues the conversation by focusing on the problem of scale in “black box” studies. Antoine Picon (Harvard) pushes back by suggesting that perhaps STS hasn’t opened the black box after all.

Nigel Thrift on speculative realism and blogging

1 September 2011

At The Chronicle of Higher Education:

I am not trying to claim that everyone should be interested in the niceties of the debate that has unfolded (although, if they are, the writings of Graham Harman or Isabelle Stengers are a good place to start, as are collections like Bryant, Srnicek, and Harmans’s The Speculative Turn). Rather, I want to use it as an example of a recent development in how academe communicates with itself. For one thing that I have found really interesting about the turn to speculative realism is that is has clearly been fuelled by online communities which have turned above all to blogs as an important means of swapping material, revealing first thoughts, and making revisions. I doubt that the growth of speculative realism would have been so insistent without these communities scattered all over the world, or so rapid.