Modes of Syncretism: notes on non-coherence, John Law & Co.


Modes of Syncretism: notes on non-coherence, John Law & Co.

Abstract: This paper argues that all practices are syncretic. But if everything is syncretic, or non-coherent, then it becomes interesting: to know how this works in practice; to explore how the syncretic relates to what we might think of as the will to purity; and to think about how to do syncretisms well. In this paper we offer small case-studies drawn from our empirical work on practices in farming, health care, politics and religion. We use these to identify and characterise six modes or styles of syncretism at work in the modern world. These we call: denialdomesticationseparationcare; conflict; and collapse. Our list is entirely provisional, but the modest proposal is that trying to differentiate modes of syncretism in this (or some similar) way will be useful in a world in which it appears that the will to purity – and the conditions of possibility for purity – are in decline. What’s at stake at the end of the day is: how might practices that don’t cohere fit together in good ways if consistency and coherence are less important than they were?
Authors at CRESC:

Authors not at CRESC:

Geir Afdal
Kristin Asdal
Wen-yuan Lin
Ingunn Moser
Vicky Singleton

8 Responses to “Modes of Syncretism: notes on non-coherence, John Law & Co.”

  1. Francois Thoreau Says:

    It is surprising that this paper appears not to be written in articulation with Latour’s AIME. At first, reading the abstract, I had this sense this whole “non-coherence” thing was an acid attack on Latour’s modes of existence, full of caustic irony. It seems not to relate at all, and still the authors mimic Latour’s “provisional inventory”… I just don’t get it! Btw, thanks for the great work you’re doing on this blog I’m an aficionado.

    • dmfant Says:

      thanks, it’s my pleasure to share and good to know it is serving some interest/need, as far as I know this paper preceded Latour’s latest work being made public but yes the theme does raise some of the kinds of tensions that many folks have brought up in direct response to AIME and I believe was occasionally part of that questioning process by some authors.

  2. Nicholas Says:

    I agree with Francois Thoreau (on both accounts, I guess). The paper is outstanding, but sits there like an island. It would really be nice to see a “Law versus Latour” grudge-match. In fact, an outstanding paper/book would be to distinguish between the two “thinkers of things” … might make a reasonable title!

  3. dmfant Says:

    For folks who may not be in the loop on Law’s work:

  4. Francois Thoreau Says:

    Fascinating, indeed. To me all this raises the speculative question that is: does Latour pursues coherence? That’s a touchy / political one.

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