Archive for the ‘Social theory’ Category

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.

The Device: The Social Life of Method

20 December 2012

Keep an eye out for this forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Cultural Economy, edited by John Law and Evelyn Ruppert: “The Device: The Social Life of Method.” Two articles seem to be already available: “Provocative Containment and the Drift of Social-Scientific Realism” by Javier Lezaun, Fabian Muniesa & Signe Vikkelsø, and  “Anticipating Failure: Transparency devices and their effects” by Penny Harvey, Madeleine Reeves & Evelyn Ruppert.

New blog on anthropology of science and technology

10 November 2012

A new blog to bookmark on the anthropology of science and technology from the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) at the American Anthropological Association. Kicked off with an inaugural post by the editor, Patricia G. Lange, and a post by Lucy Suchman on the military-industrial-media-entertainment network.

New book: Agency without Actors?

24 April 2012

Passoth, J., B. Peuker & M. Schillmeier (Eds) (2012) Agency without Actors? Rethinking Collective Action. London/New York: Routledge


Note on Contributors 1. Introduction Part 1: Events, Suggestions, Accounts 2. Suggestion and Satisfaction: On the Actual Occasion of Agency by Paul Stronge and Mike Michael 3. Science, Cosmopolitics and the Question of Agency: Kant’s Critique and Stengers’ Event by Michael Schillmeier 4. Questioning the Human/Non-Human Distinction by Florence Rudolf 5. Agency and “Worlds” of Accounts: Erasing the Trace or Rephrasing the Action? by Rolland Munro Part 2: Contribution, Distribution, Failures 6. Distributed Agency and Advanced Technology, Or: How to Analyze Constellations of Collective Inter-Agency by Werner Rammert 7. Distributed Sleeping and Breathing: On the Agency of Means in Medical Work by Cornelius Schubert 8. Agencies’ Democracy: “Contribution” as a Paradigm to (Re)thinking the Common in a World of Conflict by Jacques Roux 9. Reality Failures by John Law Part 3: Interaction, Partnership, Organization 10. “What’s the Story?” Organizing as a Mode of Existence by Bruno Latour 11. Researching Water Quality with Non-Humans: An ANT Account by Christelle Gramaglia & Delaine Sampaio Da Silva 12. Horses – Significant Others, People’s Companions, and Subtle Actors by Marion Mangelsdorf

Videos of recent Latour talks

21 April 2012
  • Watch video: “Ecological Crises, Digital Humanities and New Political Assemblies,” Azim Premji University, 23 March 2012
  • Watch video: “Reenacting Science,” Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, 20 February 2012
  • Watch video: “From Critique to Composition,” Dublin City University, 17 February 2012

Semiotics of Subjectivities

24 February 2012

XL Congress of the Italian Association for Semiotic Studies, Turin, September 28-30, 2012. Keynote speakers:

  • Maurizio Bettini
  • Omar Calabrese
  • Jean-Claude Coquet
  • Umberto Eco
  • Paolo Fabbri
  • Bruno Latour
  • Giovanni Manetti
  • Peter Sloterdijk
  • Patrizia Violi

Policy meets ANT workshop

24 February 2012

Call for participation
Policy meets Actor Network Theory: doctoral student workshop

Policy has become “increasingly central concept and instrument in the organization of contemporary societies [and] now impinges on all areas of life so that it’s virtually impossible to ignore or to escape its influence” (Wedel et al 2005: 3). It has been closely associated with the political in terms of decision making, yet it stems into specific domains for setting goals and means of achieving them.  Policy occupies space at the crossroads – for some it is at the overlap of authority, expertise and order. For others it merges politics, science, technology, and society. And for yet others, policy is associated with administration, management and organization. It conveys deliberation and purpose, competence as well as rationality.

The analytical approach known as Actor Network Theory (ANT), born in science and technology studies, is notoriously known for not being a theory in the strict sense of a testable, predictive and explanatory model. Starting as a negative reading of what is the world enacted in much of social theory ANT offers a set of ontological considerations in the larger scheme of things and associated methodological propositions at the level of research design. In the 1990’s, ANT inspired analytics have also ventured to studies of policy via the governmentality studies and their interest in mentalities as well as technologies of government and in the action at a distance. However, governmentality studies today as a mainstream body within policy analysis are more associated with the former interest in ‘mentalities’ of governing.

Our workshop wants to build on these traditions. We want to ask how ANT may enhance our understanding of policy beyond the rationalist vs. social constructionist debate which has marked policy analysis. This question also implies interest in innovative research design for studying policy which would move beyond the traditional commitments to either global or local scaling of research. We want to engage with some of the key propositions of ANT as deployed in our own empirical analyses of complex realities in the making. Here we refer to a series of methodological commitments applied to the study of policy worlds:

  • principle of symmetry as a way of working in the same analytical register with both success and failure of a policy or a reform
  • study of translations as a way of working with the complexities of new and often unexpected realities crafted in policy process and implementation
  • study of socio-material arrangements with a revised concept of agency which allows for materialities to have effects rather than merely index the social and the symbolic; the question extends to what materialities are engaged in holding policy worlds together
  • study of ‘ontological politics’ as a way of working with non-coherent realities and their co-ordination,
  • question of ‘performativity’ as a way to rearticulate analytical focus on the ‘existence’ of policy worlds in the making

Each participant will have 60 minutes allocated to their work. During this hour they will introduce their paper, providing an overview of the content and argument (approximately 10-15 minutes), followed by critical comments and questions from a predefined main discussant (approximately 10-15 minutes). The author then has a ‘right of reply’ (approx. 10 minutes), before general discussion of the paper (approx. 20-25 minutes).

All papers (max 8000 words) will be electronically circulated to all participants two weeks in advance of the workshop. Participants are required to read the papers. Organizers will name main discussants for each paper who will prepare a detailed reflection of the allocated paper.

PhD students interested in joining the workshop should email an abstract (500 words) to the organizers which will show how their research project fits within the parameters of the workshop and provide a brief summary of their paper.  Selected participants will be asked to submit full paper two weeks prior to the event for circulation. Deadline for abstract submission is 30 March 2012.

Workshop will be held on 21 and 22 June 2012.

Venue for the workshop will be confirmed. Currently, funding is being raised to support workshop participants in attending. There will be no attendance fee.

This workshop is part of University of Kent, South-East ESRC Doctoral Training Centre Advance Training in sociology of policy.


David Kocman, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent,
Aleksandra Lis, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European University,

Toscano on capitalism and panorama

18 February 2012

Alberto Toscano’s forthcoming lecture at Simon Fraser University on 6 March 2012, among others deploying Latour’s concept of the ‘panorama:’

Capitalism and Panorama: Staging Totality in Social Theory and Art

Can, or should, social theory try to ’see it whole’? This paper addresses the representation of social totality along theoretical, political and aesthetic axes. It considers the demand for orienting and totalizing representations of capitalist society present in the programmatic notions of ’sociological imagination’ in C. Wright Mills and ‘cognitive mapping’ in Fredric Jameson. Mills and Jameson converge on the need to mediate personal experience and systemic constraints, knowledge and action, while underscoring the political urgency and epistemic difficulty of such a demand.

This lecture will contrast these perspectives with the repudiation of a sociology of totality in the actor-network theory of Bruno Latour. It will explore this contrast through the ‘panorama’, both as a theoretical metaphor and as the object of different visual and artistic practices.

Bio: Alberto Toscano teaches in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Fanaticism (2010) and The Theatre of Production (2006). He is an editor of the journal “Historical Materialism”.

Enemies like Bruno Latour

8 February 2012

Two recordings of talks in the “My Best Fiend” series at Goldsmiths discussing Latour (among others), by David Oswell from Goldsmiths and Steve Fuller from the University of Warwick, have now been made available at the CSISP blog.

  • David Oswell: ‘Dances with Wolves: Latour, Machiavelli and Us’ (December 6th, 2011) [The first part of the title in fact alludes to the “wolf” metaphor that emerged from The Prince and the Wolf debate]
  • Steve Fuller: ‘Bruno Latour and Some Notes on Some Also Rans’ (December 13th, 2011)

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