Thinking with Latour

David Berliner (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)
Mattijs van de Port (University of Amsterdam)
Theatre S2
Start time:
13 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The impact of Bruno Latour is enormous across the contemporary social sciences. In this panel, we would like to invite anthropologists to write about their own intellectual engagement with Latourian theories.

Long abstract:

The impact of Bruno Latour is enormous across the contemporary social sciences, at the intersection of anthropology, sociology and philosophy. Many see his work as innovative, stimulating and sometimes prophetic: often he has directed our attention toward new ways of dealing with society and reflecting on the constitution of modernity. In particular, Latour has de-centered social analysis from the thinking subject and called attention to the ways in which non-human agency interacts with human agency on the same ontological register, for instance the affective presence of material objects or scientific concepts in social interactions. Anthropologists continue to use Latour's ideas and "tools". Although he initially contributed to the study of sciences and technologies, Latour has inspired many scholars dealing with material culture, religion, medical, virtual and environmental anthropology. Generally speaking, he has compelled scholars to rethink the question of universalité and, by the same token, he managed to provincialize Western cosmologies and their unconditional objects of belief, their "factishes". Latourian notions of "Great Divide", "actants", "collectives", "mediations" and "attachment" are nowadays part of the conceptual apparatus of many anthropologists, who draw on his approach to creatively pursue their own agendas. In this panel, we invite scholars to write about their own engagement with Bruno Latour, either to oppose his work or to recognize his influence on their intellectual endeavour, by helping them to figure out new ways of dealing with their ethnographical material and to challenge their paradigmatic views.