Archive for January, 2012

T for Thing

29 January 2012

Under the letter “T” in David Evans’s Critical Dictionary, “Thing” is represented by Tammy Lu and Katherine Gillieson’s cover design for Levi Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects book, accompanied by Graham Harman and Bruno Latour’s prospectus for the New Metaphysics series at Open Humanities Press. Hat tip to Tammy Lu.

Abandoning the conventional format of the dictionary, Critical Dictionary is an ambitious cornucopia of ideas, images, and illustrations, that emphasise the open-ended, provisional and unfinished nature of language, communication and meaning. Inspired by the mock dictionary Georges Bataille edited for ‘Documents’ in 1929 and 1930, Critical Dictionary is an adventurous title, aiming to puncture pretension, and declassify terms in a playful, humourous manner. Bringing together newly commissioned work, material gathered from online art magazine, and featuring elements such as a retrospective assessment of the ZG magazine by former editor Rosetta Brooks, one of the seminal products of the art scene in the 1980s, and catalyst to the development of the so-called ”Pictures Generation”, Critical Dictionary is a rich exploration of ideas and language in all its forms.


The Critical Dictionary exhibition had just opened at the WORK Gallery in London and will be on until 25 February 2012.

Hatch by Tammy Lu and Crystal Bueckert

27 January 2012

If you happen to be in the resurgent boomtown of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada between March 30 and June 10 this year, and have an interest in the intersection of art and urbanism, check out Hatch, Tammy Lu and Crystal Bueckert’s show at the Mendel Art Gallery:

Artists by Artists: Tammy Lu and Crystal Bueckert

March 30 to June 10, 2012

Hatch is an exhibition of parallel investigations into notions of path finding and city building. Tammy Lu and Crystal Bueckert’s research and drawings address historical and imagined narratives of Saskatoon by tracing and layering events, characters, infrastructures and geography.

Using human and architectural characters of Saskatoon as a narrative code, Lu proposes a process of city planning that involves a continual personal re-configuration of local stories. Bueckert renders collected images into hybrid maps that explore the evolutions and revisions of city building. Employing a non-linear book format, the artists splice their imagined urban spaces to form permutations of possible mapping schemes.

Lu and Bueckert’s collaborative image immediately reminded me of this Sloterdijk passage:

Life is a matter of form–that is the hypothesis we associate with the venerable philosophical and geometrical term “sphere.” It suggests that life, the formation of spheres and thinking are different  expressions for the same thing. Referring to a vital spheric geometry is only productive, however, if one concedes the existence of a form of theory that knows more about life than life itself does–and that wherever human life is found, whether nomadic or settled, inhabited orbs appear, wandering or stationary orbs which, in a sense, are rounder than anything that can be drawn with compasses. (pp. 10-11)

Peter Sloterdijk, Spheres. Volume I: Bubbles. Microspherology

The Ontological Turn in Contemporary Philosophy

25 January 2012

Third Annual International Summer School in German Philosophy: “The Ontological Turn in Contemporary Philosophy” (July 2-13, 2012) at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.

Organizer: Professor Dr. Markus Gabriel, Chair in Epistemology, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy (Bonn University)

Keynote Addresses/Visiting Professors:

  • Prof. Ray Brassier (American University, Beirut)
  • Prof. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bristol)
  • Prof. Martin Hägglund (Harvard/London Graduate School)
  • Prof. Graham Harman (American University, Cairo)
  • Prof. Slavoj Zizek (Ljubljana, NYU, Birkbeck, European Graduate School)

Course Description:

What is the world? What do we mean when we speak of the world in philosophy and claim things such as true thought being about the world? Is the world “out there,” as Bernard Williams and Adrian Moore’s “absolute conception of reality” suggest or is it a horizon or regulative ideal guiding our epistemic practices?

In metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology it is common to speak of the world without bothering to explicate what this term means. Even though it features in debates concerning our access to the external world and even in book titles like Mind and World, it usually does not seem to express more than the vague realist assumption or platitude that not all objects or facts are made up, hallucinated, or in some way or another constructed by thinking subjects. Much of the 20th century’s linguistic turn, both in the analytical and in the hermeneutical/phenomenological traditions, assumes that the world is what we have access to with truth-apt thought, yet also is that which might be distorted by our attempts to grasp it as it is in itself. Over the last decade, many voices (such as Hilary Putnam, Stanley Cavell, Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux and Paul Boghossian, to name a few) have urged that the overall territory of the debate regarding the position of thinking in a world of facts is fundamentally confused by missing the very facticity of the world. This has triggered a thoroughgoing return to realism, prominently figuring in the thought of the avant-garde movement of “speculative realism” or “speculative materialism,” as it has been labeled. Interestingly, the debates often associated with Badiou’s ontology and the critique of all transcendental philosophy in Meillassoux’s After Finitude have, in a recent turn, led to a reassessment of German idealism, for example in the work of Markus Gabriel, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Slavoj Zizek. On a closer look, it turns out the Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel’s criticisms of Kant can be read as attempts to overcome transcendental epistemology and themselves motivate an ontological turn.

This year, we will discuss an array of perspectives on the ontological turn developed by the organizer and visiting professors in recent work. In particular, we will address the concepts of speculative philosophy, the relation between transcendental philosophy and ontology in general, the issue of contemporary forms of realism and materialism, and the prospects for a suitably realist or materialist reading of figures such as Schelling, Hegel, and Derrida. The philosophers assembled will present and discuss their recent work in the form of a lecture followed by a seminar. Everyone admitted to the Summer School will receive a reader with texts to be prepared before arrival.

More details here. H/t Graham Harman.

The New in Social Research

24 January 2012

Spring 2012 seminar series at CSISP and the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, London

  • Feb 7:  Alex Taylor | Microsoft Research – Executable biology: at the borderlands of technoscience
  • Feb 21: Matt Fuller and Graham Harwood | Goldsmiths – Database as Funfair
  • Feb 28: Evelyn Ruppert |Open University – Doing the Transparent State: Methods and their Subjectifying Effects/Affects
  • March 7: Bruno Latour | Science Po, Richard Rogers|University of Amsterdam – Digital Societies: between ontology and methods
  • March 20: Javier Lezaun | University of Oxford – Cinematography and the Discovery of Social Kinetics
  • March 27: ECDC | Goldsmiths – Energy Communities and Design Interventions

Forthcoming events with Callon, Latour et al.

24 January 2012

20 February 2012,  18:00 – 19:30 – Bruno Latour at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

7 March 2012, 16:30 – 19:00 –  Bruno Latour & Richard Rogers:  “Digital societies: between ontology and methods,” at Goldsmiths, London

30 March 2012 – 12:30 – 16:30 – Michel Callon, Fabian Muniesa, Adam Leaver and Karel Williams: “How Methods Move in Markets,” at Open University, Camden, London


23 January 2012

Workshop announcement:
“NO-THING PERSONAL? Drawing the frontier between persons and things in accounting, law and marketing

Time: Thursday 2nd February 2012, 14h-18h

Place: London School of Economics and Political Science, Graham Wallas Room (5th floor of the Old Building — behind the Senior Common Room)

After a few decades of increased interest in non-human things, it seems like a good idea for the social sciences to now look again, with their renewed intellectual gaze, at the traditional objects of anthropology that are human beings. What has the detour via things helped us discover about men and women, about individual subjects, about persons? More specifically, the question may be to understand in what ways humans are affected, and possibly redefined, by the non-humans they cohabit with. This workshop proposes to explore this question by confronting the point of view of three social scientists, from three distinct disciplines: Franck Cochoy (University of Toulouse, Sociology), Alain Pottage (LSE, Law) and Peter Miller (LSE, Accounting). Each of them has already, in his personal works, explored the frontier between persons and things (Pottage), subjects and instruments (Miller), or dispositifs and dispositions (Cochoy). All three have, moreover, focused acutely on the sphere of economic transactions, where persons aspirations intermingle constantly with accounting, legal and marketing devices. Their dialogue — or experimental trialogue, rather! — should help us see more clearly how unexpectedly personal things can sometimes get.

14h00-15h00: Franck Cochoy — “Animating markets”
15h00-15h15: intermission
15h15-16h15: Alain Pottage — “Taking law literally”
16h15-16h30: intermission
16h30-17h30: Peter Miller — “Democratising failure”
17h30-18h00: wrap-up Q&A

For further information on the workshop, please contact Martin Giraudeau, at


16 January 2012

OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) is a great little resource. Their search function is pretty powerful. Just type in “actor-network theory” or “Latour” or “Callon” for instance, and you will see what I mean. It searches within the PDFs and lists results in terms of relevance.

Sloterdijk’s Spherological Poetics of Being

16 January 2012

Hat tip to Graham for bringing attention to this book on Sloterdijk: it turns out there is also an open access version, downloadable from here:

Schinkel, W. and Noordegraaf-Eelens, L., Eds. (2011). In Medias Res: Peter Sloterdijk’s Spherological Poetics of Being. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. [PDF]

The book also includes Latour’s “Cautious Prometheus” lecture.

Sloterdijk has in recent years grown into one of Germany’s most influential thinkers. His work, which is extremely relevant for philosophers, scientists of art and culture, sociologists, political scientists and theologists, is only now gradually being translated in English. This book makes his work accessible to a wider audience by putting it to work in orientation towards current issues. Sloterdijk’s philosophy moves from a Heideggerian project to think ‘space and time’ to a Diogenes-inspired ‘kynical’ affirmation of the body and a Deleuzian ontology of network-spheres. In a range of accessible and clearly written chapters, this book discusses the many aspects of this thought.

A Conversation with Bruno Latour

10 January 2012

In the latest issue (Vol. 2, No. 2) of Tecnoscienza (requires registration, but otherwise free):

Introducing “La fabrique du droit”: A Conversation with Bruno Latour (Paolo Landri and Bruno Latour)

Abstract: Bruno  Latour  talks  with  Paolo  Landri  about  his  book  on  the  Conseil d’Etat (La Fabrique du droit). The conversation was held in 2006 at the time of the Italian  translation  of  the  book  and  illustrates  the  research  project  and  the difficulties the author had in the field. At the same time, it clarifies the trajectories of Bruno Latour’s work and theoretical framework of his program of study with respect to sociology, anthropology, and philosophy of law. The conversation helps to understand the open-ended character of Bruno Latour’s research and reflection including STS as well as sociological, anthropological and philosophical themes.

Keywords: biology; law; after-ANT; anthropology; sociology

Another call for a Prince and the Wolf reading group

6 January 2012

In addition to the seminar in Dublin, here is another call for a reading group (by Adam Greenfield at Urbanscale) around the themes of The Prince and the Wolf and The Prince of Networks, within the context of design, computing and urban planning:

Thanks to Anil Bawa-Cavia for pointing me at The Prince and the Wolf, a transcript of Graham Harman’s 2008 conversation with Bruno Latour at the LSE. This and Harman’s book on Latour, Prince of Networks, are the first things I’m reading in my attempt to reconcile the objects of object-oriented ontology with Latour’s actors, which endeavor is what sparked all of the above in the first place. (If anyone’s interested in forming a reading and discussion group around these and related issues, by the way, please do let me know.)