Archive for November, 2011

CfP: Empirical Philosophy of Science

17 November 2011

Call for Papers: Empirical Philosophy of Science – Qualitative Methods, Sandbjerg, Denmark,  March 21-23, 2012 – workshop organised by Center for Science Studies, Aarhus University. Extended Deadline: December 2, 2011.

The workshop seeks to explore the benefits and challenges of an empirical philosophy of science: What do philosophers gain from empirical work? How can empirical research help to develop philosophical concepts? How do we integrate philosophical frameworks and empirical research? What constraints do we accept when choosing an empirical approach? What constraints does a pronounced theoretical focus impose on empirical work?

Keynote Speakers:

  • Nancy Nersessian, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Lisa Osbeck, University of West Georgia
  • Erika Mansnerus, London School of Economics
  • Hauke Riesch, Imperial College London
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CfP: Knowledge in a Box

12 November 2011

The tobacco association aside, I love the idea of this conference: Knowledge in a Box: How Mundane Things Shape Knowledge Production, July 26-29, 2012; to take place at a renovated tobacco warehouse (the tobacco museum) in Kavala, northern Greece.

We invite proposals from scholars in the history of science, technology, and medicine, science and technology studies, the humanities, visual and performing arts, museum and cultural studies and other related disciplines for a workshop on the uses and meanings of mundane things such as boxes, packages, bottles, and vials in shaping knowledge production. In keeping with the conference theme, we are asking contributors to include specific references to the ways in which boxes have played a role—commercial, epistemic or otherwise—in their own particular disciplinary frameworks.

Update: here is a direct link to the conference website: KNOWLEDGE IN A BOX : How mundane things shape knowledge production, with  the programme, abstracts, list of attendees etc.

Levi Bryant on book covers

12 November 2011

Speaking of Tammy Lu’s drawings, I have just come across this recent interview with Levi Bryant, which includes the following exchange on the topic of his book covers (both of which have been featured on this blog, here and here):

The cover of Democracy of Objects features a series of fantastical objects of similar scale and spacing strung on a piece of something like barbed wire. The book The Speculative Turn that you edited with Graham Harman and Nick Srnicek features a pair of pruning shears. Barbed wire was a revolutionary technology that fundamentally shifted settlement patterns across the North American midwest; pruners are the ideal general purpose tool for maintenance and propagation of vegetation. Can you talk a little bit about the choice of those images?

To be quite honest I had no role in choosing the images for either of my books, though I couldn’t be more pleased with the choices of the editors. I’m particularly fond of Tammy Lu’s cover for The Democracy of Objects as I believe it very much captures the spirit of my thought. Seen from afar it looks like flowers intertwined along threads of ivy. This very much captures my conception of objects as something that “bloom” or unfold, just as the Greeks conceived phusis as a blooming or unfolding. However, as you look more closely you suddenly see a hint of menace (the barb wire and fishing tackle), as well as a universe that somehow manages to beautifully interweave natural entities, computer memory storage devices, barb wire, fishing tackle and so on. Tammy Lu’s work captures the sense of a flat ontology where nature, culture, and technology are not distinct ontological realms but rather where all entities are intermingled on a single flat plain of immanence and where there is no supplementary space that contains them but only the relations they forge with one another generating a network space. It is a world of great beauty as well as lurking menace.

The cover of The Speculative Turn is a bit more masculine and difficult for me to decipher. No doubt pruning sheers were dimly chosen to convey the sense of something of the tradition—the Kantian correlationist legacy—being pruned away. This would be the aggressive, warlike dimension that seems especially popular among those speculative realists that fall in the nihilistic eliminativist camp and that seem to revel in death and destruction. Indeed, perhaps a major fault-line in speculative realism is between that camp that emphasizes construction and building (though without a anthropocentric reference for these terms) found among the object-oriented ontologists and the process-relationists, and that side that seems delighted by tearing down, destroying, and death found among the nihilistic eliminativists. A more generous reading of the pruning sheers, however, would be to comprehend them along the lines of the bonsai tree, as the collaborative process that takes place between humans and nonhumans in the cultivation of collectives.

The rest of the interview is also well worth reading: it contains discussions on “intersections between his work and ideas of wilderness, landscape, control mechanisms and the ambivalence of utopian fictions in affecting public space.”

ANTHEM facelift

9 November 2011

Thank you to Tammy Lu for her permission to use part of her drawing entitled “W” as the new ANTHEM header.

CfP: ANT beyond the Laboratory

8 November 2011

Call for papers by the journal Qualitative Sociology (hat tip Installing (Social) Order):

“Reassembling Ethnography: ANT beyond the Laboratory”

Deadline for Submissions: 31 March 2012.

Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) was literally developed in the laboratory, but it is an approach that proclaims usefulness to all arenas of social life. In recent years, ANT has been actively taken up in neighboring fields, such as Anthropology and Geography, but has only experienced slow and uneven interest within sociology. An upcoming edition of Qualitative Sociology aims to discuss ANT in relation to sociological ethnographic and qualitative methodologies. ANT’s call to ‘follow actors,’ its principle of symmetry, and its skepticism toward taken-for-granted categories in some way harkens to revered sociological traditions of ethnography, but at the same time challenges some of our existing conceptualizations and traditions of ethnographic research. This Special Issue brings together cutting-edge empirical articles that deploy/expand and dialogue with ANT’s ‘sociology of associations’ in various arenas of the social world.

The edition will be published in 2013. Edition articles will explore the usefulness of ANT as a method and as a theory to inform qualitative research, and ethnography in particular. We are interested in articles that will examine how ANT enriches our theoretical and empirical understandings of social phenomena, beyond its familiar domains in science and technology. Contributions are welcomed on a range of themes. The list below is not meant to be exhaustive and we encourage contributors to be creative in their application and engagement with ANT.

  • Civil Society and civic associations
  • Cities and urban life
  • Policy-making and statecraft
  • Sociology of knowledge
  • Race, ethnicity, gender, and class identities
  • Politics and social movements
  • Inequality and stratification

In keeping with the tradition of Qualitative Sociology, we seek theoretically-rich, high-quality empirical studies that will push us to reflect on the limits of ANT, and devise ways to harness its benefits.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURES

The Special Issue will be edited by Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Diana Graizbord, and Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz (Brown University). The Editors welcome contributions engaged from doctoral or early career to established academics. The papers will undergo the usual peer-review procedure as established by QS.

SUBMISSION DETAILS

Deadline for submissions: March 31, 2012 submitted directly to the journal.

Word Limits: 10,000 words (maximum) including bibliography

Queries:

  • Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Gianpaolo_Baiocchi@Brown.edu)
  • Diana Graizbord (Diana_Graizbord@Brown.edu)
  • Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz (Michael_Rodriguez@Brown .edu)

Full submission instructions are available on the QS website (http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/journal/11133), on the ‘Instructions for Authors’ page. All manuscripts will be subject to the normal double-blind peer review process, but potential authors are welcome to discuss their ideas in advance with the Editors.

Speculative realism recordings

7 November 2011

Readers in the past have requested an alternative way to download recordings from this site, as there were apparently some problems with downloading them from eSnips. I’m happy to report that Modestos Stavrakis has now very kindly rehosted the recordings on his blog, alongside a variety of recordings from other sources as well. See his Speculative Realism Recordings. Thank you, Modestos.

Power and anti-knowledge workshop

2 November 2011

Workshop organised by the University of Essex Department of Sociology, Centre For Theoretical Studies and Essex Business School, 12-6pm on 10 November 2011 (Seminar Room, Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall).

‘Power and Anti-Knowledge: The Politics of Knowledge in Crisis’

From ‘Climategate’ to ‘Murdochgate,’ explosive political crises dominating media attention in recent years have shared a common denominator: they have centred on the politics of knowledge and nonknowledge. In each case, claims of expertise were predicated on the ability to deny knowing about the effects of contentious decisions. Ignorance – not knowledge – is often harnessed and exploited in order to cement authority, underlining the importance of ‘antiepistemology’ (Galison) in achieving political objectives. The usefulness of nonknowledge as a key resource during political crises – whether ‘natural’ crises such as the BP oil leak, or ‘manufactured’ disasters such as recent rogue trading and phone hacking scandals – has put knowledge itself in crisis. Popular and scholarly perceptions of epistemology are being challenged as a result of the increased recognition of the political usefulness of nonknowledge, ambiguity and uncertainty as tools of governance. This meeting brings together social theorists and philosophers to consider the politics of knowledge and its antitheses.

Speakers

  • Andrew Barry, University of Oxford, ‘The political situation’
  • Peter Fleming, Queen Mary University, ‘Exit Work: Withdrawing from the Ideology of Labour’
  • Andrew Goffey, University of Middlesex, ‘Grey Media and Production of Stupidity’
  • Michael Guggenheim, Goldsmiths College, ‘Leviathan and the Water Pump: How Britain Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love Disaster Exercises’
  • Linsey McGoey, University of Essex, ‘Knowledge alibis’

For further details or to reserve a place, please contact Sian Savage at ssavage@essex.ac.uk

Linking politics, economics and religion

2 November 2011

The Occupy London movement is a fabulous case study for the actor-network theory notion of translating and aligning interests and enrolling new allies. The anti-capitalism protesters in front of St Paul’s Cathedral managed to enrol Jesus himself, at least in the way he is incorporated by the Church of England. Suddenly even the mighty City of London (the British Wall Street, as it were) had to back down.

St Paul’s and Corporation of London halt legal action against Occupy camp” – The Guardian

Cathedral announces U-turn and initiative to ‘reconnect financial with the ethical’ – but corporation qualifies its move as a ‘pause’

“The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul’s has now heard that call,” said the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who was called in to help the cathedral change course after its dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, resigned on Monday following heavy criticism of the decision to close St Paul’s for a week and cut off all contact with the protest camp.

In a statement that drew repeated cheers as protesters read it aloud at their daily assembly, Chartres said the doors of St Paul’s were now instead “most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe”.

Palestine UNESCO vote

1 November 2011

After hearing about the Palestine vote in UNESCO, I became very curious about how various countries voted. I thought the breakdown of the votes would be an interesting snapshot of the balance of power in the world today, possibly revealing some new fault lines and alliances that otherwise would be difficult to detect. The question of Palestine must be among the top international controversies of our day, combining historical, political, economic, religious, military and many other kinds of disagreements. Although I didn’t have time to conduct extensive research, I was surprised how difficult it was to actually find a detailed list of the voting results. What is that about? Surely there must be loads of people wondering how their countries had voted. Yet the international media only mentions a handful of countries, and I couldn’t find any details on the UNESCO or UN website.

Eventually I came across a link to this blog at an unlikely place, the comments section of a Slovakian newspaper, where also a lot of readers were looking for such a list. But even this list is a reconstruction via unofficial sources and guesswork, as far as I can tell (although I’m grateful to the author to have made the effort to assemble it). Let’s assume that the list is correct. First, it is interesting to see is how isolated the “no” voters are. Fourteen countries vastly outnumbered by the “yes” voters and the “abstentions” and “no shows.” And a lot of the “no” countries are very small ones, such as Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. There are only five EU member states among them (Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden). At the same time there are eleven EU countries that have voted “yes”.

One can speculate about which countries fall into which other country’s sphere of influence or which countries would be likely to vote “no” because they have similar problems at home. However, these assumptions don’t seem to work in this case. E.g. I was surprised to see Serbia voting “yes,” considering that one would expect them to be wary of supporting the recognition of new countries in general, given their Kosovo problem. It’s also interesting to see the differences between neighbouring countries with historical ties (e.g. Czech Republic voting “no,” Slovakia abstaining; Austria voting “yes,” Hungary abstaining; the Netherlands voting “no,” Belgium voting “yes”). But I’m not an expert in this field, and according to Sean (who had constructed the list) “most of these are no surprise.”

Update (1-Nov-11)

I suppose what’s particularly disappointing from a European perspective is that the EU is not capable of forming a common position on this foreign policy issue. The European vote was split three ways, which really makes you wonder of the effectiveness of their co-ordinating mechanisms and the strength of the European voice in the world.