Archive for the ‘Bruno Latour’ Category

Graham Harman: Bruno Latour – Reassembling the Political

4 November 2014

Just published: Graham Harman: Bruno Latour – Reassembling the Political (Pluto Press)Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political

Bruno Latour, the French sociologist, anthropologist and long-established superstar in the social sciences is revisited in this pioneering account of his ever-evolving political philosophy. Breaking from the traditional focus on his metaphysics, most recently seen in Harman’s book Prince of Networks (2009), the author instead begins with the Hobbesian and even Machiavellian underpinnings of Latour’s early period and encountering his shift towards Carl Schmitt and finishing with his final development into the Lippmann / Dewey debate. Harman brings these twists and turns into sharp focus in terms of Latour’s personal political thinking.

Along with Latour’s most important articles on political themes, the book chooses three works as exemplary of the distinct periods in Latour’s thinking: The Pasteurization of France, Politics of Nature, and the recently published An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence, as his conception of politics evolves from a global power struggle between individuals, to the fabrication of fragile parliamentary networks, to just one mode of existence among many others.

Graham Harman is Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of numerous books, including Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (2002) and Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics (2009).

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2013 GAD Distinguished Lecture: Bruno Latour

28 January 2014

This year the General Anthropology Division (GAD) welcomed Bruno Latour as its Distinguished Lecturer at the 112th Annual Meeting of the AAA. Latour’s talk, “What Is the Recommended Dose of Ontological Pluralism for a Safe Anthropological Diplomacy?” was recorded on video.

h/t  Chris Furlow.

Harman on “Early and Late Latour,” Oregon State, 25-Feb-2014

5 October 2013

Graham Harman: “Early and Late Latour,” Critical Questions Lecture Series, School of Writing, Literature, and Film, Oregon State University, 25th February 2014

The French theorist Bruno Latour continues to expand his already extensive influence in the social sciences, and is slowly emerging as a force to reckon with in philosophy as well. Latour has long been known for his actor-network theory. But beginning in 1987, Latour worked in secret on a parallel philosophical system in which networks are just one among fourteen separate modes of existence. This secret system was recently unveiled in Latour’s new book An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (Harvard University Press, 2013). This lecture will examine the principal features of Latour’s new system and ask whether Latour’s proclaimed philosophical shift is significant in its own right, and also whether it might have new implications for the various fields that take inspiration from Latour’s work.

Review of the ‘two Princes’

29 September 2013

Nigel Clark’s review of Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics and The Prince and the Wolf: Latour and Harman at the LSE in the August 2013 issue of Contemporary Political Theory [PDF].

On Latour and Simondon’s Mode of Existence – fragments of a fictional dialogue yet to come

4 February 2013

On Latour and Simondon’s Mode of Existence – fragments of a fictional dialogue yet to come.

Yuk Hui, intervention given in a Workshop on Latour@ Denkerei, 28 Jan,2013

This intervention from its outset searches a dialogue between Simondon and Latour, a fictional dialogue, that nevertheless exists though it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened, or should I say it was once about to happen, when Latour praised Simondon’s Du Mode d’existence des objets techniques, and commented that it is a work that didn’t yet find its successor. But it does exist, this fictional dialogue, or at least we can talk about its mode of existence if you prefer since being fictional is also a mode of existence. We cannot draw a squared circle but we can think of a squared circle, it has meanings, this was an example given by Husserl as a critique of Frege’s logism. The secrete philosopher of Bruno Latour, Étienne Souriau hold a similar idea in his Les différents Modes d’existence. A fictional object or character doesn’t occur in time and space as a physical object, or a historical event, but it does exists in works, in the socio-psychological life and the imagination of their readers and witness. Modes of existence is always plural, it doesn’t follow the rule of contradiction, it is rather key to what Latour calls ontological pluralism.

LARB review of Latour’s Enquête sur les modes d’existence

5 January 2013

By Stephen Muecke: “‘I am what I am attached to’: On Bruno Latour’s ‘Inquiry into the Modes of Existence.'” Los Angeles Review of Books, December 28th, 2012.

His new book, Enquête sur les modes d’existence (An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence), sold out of the first print run of 4,000 in 10 days. But it is not just a book; it is also a project in interactive metaphysics. In other words, a book, plus website. (Unheard of! A French philosopher using the Internet!) Intrigued readers of Latour’s text can go online and find themselves drawn into a collaborative project (so far only in French, but the English web pages will be up soon, and Catherine Porter’s translation of the book will be out from Harvard University Press in the spring). Simply register on the site, and you are free to offer commentary, counter-examples, snippets of movies, images, whatever. You may possibly graduate to the status of co-researcher, and even be invited to a workshop in Paris down the line, to thrash out the thornier problems.

Object-oriented sociology and the material turn

14 December 2012

Pierides, D. and Woodman, D. (2012). “Object-Oriented Sociology and Organizing in the Face of Emergency: Bruno Latour, Graham Harman and the Material Turn.” The British Journal of Sociology, 63 (4): 662-679. H/t Ecology without Nature.

This paper explores the material turn in sociology and the tools it provides for understanding organizational problems highlighted by the Royal Commission into the 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires during which 173 people died in the Australian State of Victoria. Often inspired by Bruno Latour’s material-semiotic sociology of associations, organization scholars employing these tools focus on the messy details of organization otherwise overlooked by approaches assuming a macroscopic frame of analysis. In Latour’s approach no object is reducible to something else – such as nature, the social, or atoms – it is instead a stabilized set of relations. A Latourian approach allows us to highlight how the Royal Commission and macroscopic models of organizing do unwitting damage to their objects of inquiry by purifying the ‘natural’ from the ‘social’. Performative elements in their schemas are mistaken for descriptive ones. However, a long standing critique of this approach claims that it becomes its own form of reduction, to nothing but relations. Graham Harman, in his object-oriented philosophy develops this critique by showing that a ‘relationist’ metaphysics cannot properly accommodate the capacity of ‘objects’ to cause or mediate surprises. Through our case of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, we argue that a purely relational model of objects loosens a productive tension between the structural and ephemeral that drives sociological analysis. By drawing on elements of Harman’s ontology of objects we argue that it is necessary for material-semiotic sociology to retain a central place for the emergence of sociological objects.

Latour video on The Modes of Existence project

16 November 2012

“The Modes of Existence project: an exercise in collective inquiry and digital humanities” – by Bruno Latour, 6 November 2012.

Understanding Society Lecture Series, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge

CfP: Phenomenological Approaches to Media, Technology and Communication

14 November 2012

Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Approaches to Media, Technology and Communication

2013 International Communication Association (ICA) Preconference
ICA Theory, Philosophy and Critique Division
17 June 2013, Birkbeck, University of London

Paper proposals are invited from a very wide range of perspectives, including but not limited to media history, media archaeology, audience studies, political theory, metaphysics, software studies, science and technology studies, digital aesthetics, cultural geography and urban studies. Though all proposals should relate in some way to phenomenological thinking, this should be interpreted broadly, ranging from core thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre to those with looser affiliations to phenomenology per se, for example Arendt, Bergson, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Garfinkel, Ingold, Latour, Whitehead and Harman.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dr David Berry, Swansea University
  • Professor Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Professor Graham Harman, American University of Cairo
  • Professor Lisa Parks, UC Santa Barbara
  • Professor Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan

Please send an abstract (max 200 words) of your paper to both Scott Rodgers (s.rodgers@bbk.ac.uk) and Tim Markham (t.markham@bbk.ac.uk) by 20 November 2012. Authors will be informed regarding acceptance / rejection for the preconference no later than 20 December 2012.

Henning Schmidgen on the early Latour

14 November 2012

This is one of the most informative articles I’ve read on the early influences on Latour’s work. The role of biblical exegesis is particularly interesting. And even the question of the Heidegger-Latour connection gets a little mention, which was the original impetus behind the reading group that launched this blog. Apparently the link is Latour’s philosophy teacher,  André Malet, who was into Bultmann, Heidegger’s one-time colleague, debating partner and friend.

Schmidgen, H. (2012). “The Materiality of Things? Bruno Latour, Charles Péguy, and the History of Science.” History of the Human Sciences.

This article sheds new light on Bruno Latour’s sociology of science and technology by looking at his early study of the French writer, philosopher and editor Charles Péguy (1873–1914).

In the early 1970s, Latour engaged in a comparative study of Péguy’s Clio and the four gospels of the New Testament. His 1973 contribution to a Péguy colloquium (published in 1977) offers rich insights into his interest in questions of time, history, tradition and translation. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, Latour reads Clio as spelling out and illustrating the following argument: ‘Repetition is a machine to produce differences with identity’.

However, in contrast to Deleuze’s work (together with Félix Guattari) on the materiality of machines, or assemblages [agencements], Latour emphasizes the semiotic aspects of the repetition/difference process. As in Péguy, the main model for this process is the Roman Catholic tradition of religious events.

The article argues that it is this reading of Péguy and Latour’s early interest in biblical exegesis that inspired much of Latour’s later work. In Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) and The Pasteurization of France (1988) in particular, problems of exegesis and tradition provide important stimuli for the analysis of scientific texts.

In this context, Latour gradually transforms the question of tradition into the problem of reference. In a first step, he shifts the event that is transmitted and translated from the temporal dimension (i.e. the past) to the spatial (i.e. from one part of the laboratory to another). It is only in a second step that Latour resituates scientific events in time.

As facts they are ‘constructed’ but nevertheless ‘irreducible’. They result, according to Latour, from the tradition of the future. As a consequence, the Latourian approach to science distances itself from the materialism of Deleuze and other innovative theoreticians.