The Productivity of Intellectual Enmities


A fascinating forthcoming lecture series on the role of intellectual enemies in STS organised by Michael Guggenheim at CSISP/Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. Latour seems to be a popular enemy…

My Best Fiend: On the Productivity of Intellectual Enmities

Fiends are productive. They spark interest, they draw our energy, we care about them and they care about us. Why do we choose this fiend and not another? How does our own thinking depend on our fiends? What are the rules and methods of our own fiendish engagements and what are the scientific fruits of them?

All Lectures Tuesdays, 4.30-6pm, Richard Hoggart Building RHB 137

1st Nov.: Liz Moore (Goldsmiths): Reflections on the Genesis of Intellectual Fiends

8th Nov.: Harry Collins (Cardiff): Good and Bad Arguments. With Friends, Idiots and People Without Integrity

6th Dec.: David Oswell (Goldsmiths): Dances with Wolves: Latour, Machiavelli and Us

13th Dec.: Steve Fuller (Warwick): Bruno Latour: and Some Notes on Some Also Rans.

“My best fiend” is a lecture series, which invites scholars to reflect on their academic enemies (from movements: Marxism, to persons: Talcott Parsons, to disciplines: anthropology, to concepts: “the other”). The goal of the series is to investigate the productivity of intellectual enmities.

Science and Technology Studies has highlighted the productive role of controversies to produce epistemic objects and sort the world. Controversies align scholars with methods, theories and schools of thought, they produce orientation in otherwise confusing seas of research. But controversies also pigeonhole people into camps. They undeservedly identify complex research identities with schools and theories and create guilt-by-association. The lecture series is calling for an analysis of such constellations by the protagonists themselves.

Enemies are productive. They spark interest, they draw energy, people care about them and they care about us. Why else would people spend time denouncing this badly formulated concept of an esteemed colleague, decrying the neighbouring discipline that keeps misunderstanding the world, or keep on writing bad tempered footnotes about this mistaken theory — and thereby become complicit in this very unproductivity? Why do scholars choose this enemy and not another?

Enemies also often involuntarily direct ones thinking, researching and theorising. If an enemy posits /a/, people feel compelled to posit /b/. If she writes approvingly of /c/, we need to denounce it. An enemy can have more power over people’s thinking than they would probably like to have it. It is as if people are guided in their thinking not only from their research object, but by an unknown field of do’s and don’t’s, accumulated since the time of their studies, of where to go and look and where not to look.

The lecture series calls for analyzing the productivity of intellectual enemies. The speakers choose an enemy of their choice, and analyse his, her or its productivity for their own thinking, their research and their career. Doing so, they contribute to a new sociology of sociology. They revisit controversies and analyze them from within and beyond to engage in a sociological celebration of what they usually denounce.

Dr. Michael Guggenheim


One Response to “The Productivity of Intellectual Enmities”

  1. Enemies like Bruno Latour « ANTHEM Says:

    […] recordings of talks in the “My Best Fiend” series at Goldsmiths discussing Latour (among others), by David Oswell from Goldsmiths and […]

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