Manifesto part I

Good morning fellow Latourist!

Last week Latourism had its first meeting in The Hague. In it, we discussed Latour’s We Have Never Been Modern and Politics of Nature. We talked about a wide variety of subjects ranging from ontology, epistemology, to democratic representation and science studies. Examples of questions and problems we discussed are:

  • What is reality and is it possible to step out of Latour’s Cave and question the dominance of Science (with a capital S)?
  • What is an object? Does it act? What does acting actually mean?
  • What is the relationship between those inside and those outside the Cave? Or, what is the relationship between politics and nature?
  • Who or what constitutes the demos? Or, who or what is a politically relevant actor (or actant)? What’s left of responsibility in a world full of actants?

Although I do not think we are yet in the position in which we can say that we answered these questions, we nevertheless are capable of formulating our initial findings in the form of several propositions. My interpretation and proposal for these statements is the following:

  • Give up our rationalizing instincts!
  • Keep forgetting, and start translating! (see the diagram on page 11 of WHNBM)
  • Work collectively on the creation of a common world (or collective).

These are proposals which means that I gladly invite you to comment on them,  and tell us which aspects of our first meeting fired your imagination. Also, if things were or are unclear, you’re also invited to ask questions via a comment or reserve questions these for our next meeting on March 15 in Leiden.


2 thoughts on “Manifesto part I

  1. Good morning, everyone, and thanks to Gijs for the summary of the groundwork the group uncovered together on 15 February!

    Before inspecting more concrete illustrations and applications of Latour’s conceptual distinctions on 15 March, a recent article in the augural issue of Catalyst–a new interdisciplinary journal across feminism, theory, and technoscience (thanks to Stephanie for the pointer)–connects the transformation from matters of fact to matters of concern, as well as from responsibility to response-ability, to science (as opposed to Science) pedagogy in higher education. So, for a taste of what is happening in the labs of UC Santa Cruz’s Science & Justice Working Group and Science & Justice Graduate Training Program, and to evidence the practicable dimensions of Latour’s (and Haraway’s, in anticipation of our session on 15 April) political ecology, see:

    especially the subsection entitled “Collaborative practices: Gathering around objects”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi dear all, 

    I just wanted to share some thoughts on an article I stumbled upon, it might be a bit off topic, but still very interesting!
    It gives a nice example of how a theorists from the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York think about technology and politics. It is a very rough depiction of the article, but hopefully stimulating none the less!


” Do Artifacts Have Poltics?’, by Langdon Winner. Quite an old article which appeared in the MIT Press journal Daedalus, in 1980. 
 Winner questions the notion whether technical things can embody specific forms of power and authority, or, political qualities. He divides this question into two possibilities. The first being that technological interventions in society can serve political purposes. Here Winner gives a very striking example of the two hundred low-hanging overpasses on Long Island. These overpasses not only served the purpose of letting people safely cross the roads, it had a hidden political function. Due to the low hanging overpasses, it was not possible for busses to continue on the roads which mainly led to parkways, lakes or amusements sites. Busses, at the time, were mainly used by the minority classes in New York. The overpasses provided a way for policy makers to keep these areas restricted to the upperclass, ‘white’, citizens of New York. The constructions can thus only be fully explained when the we take these racist, political policies into account, it was not a matter of mere efficiency. 

    Now I found this a very interesting example that I wanted to share with the Latourism group. The article does not really consider actual artifacts having political features here. It stays within the safe space of human understanding of technological artifacts as having political qualities, but in now way is there talk of an engagement of things in actual politics. Although it was quite daunting to argue for the affect technologies have on the power-relations within a specific area. ‘The things we call ”technologies” are ways of building order in our world.’ Again, the political action is only reserved for the human intention that decides on the manufacturing of a specific machine or technological, architectural change in society, it remains a one way street. 

    The second part of the article considers the other possibility in which technologies can be inherently political. This part is of interest to our research into the Parliament of Things, although I am not quite sure yet how to fit it in with the readings on Latour. He seems to be making the same argument as in the first part, namely that material conditions determine structures of subordination and power-relations within society. Only this time it is not an effect of a political policy with certain bad or good intentions, it is the construction of the thing itself that demands the structure. As an example Winner points out that a ship will only allow for a hierarchical relationship or authoritarian politics. ‘No reasonable person believes that ships can be run democratically.’ Still the examples he gives here reduces the political in things to the influence they have on the organization of human associations. It seems to me that Winner still holds on to a clear separation of society, technology and politics. Another conclusion is that if Artifacts do have politics, this would necessarily be organized in an authoritarian way, and we should think about the possibility of an authoritarian government being the best way of organizing our society. 

    Here is the link to the article, for those of you who are interested in the more full description of his argument. I know I can be quite vague on this ;-).


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