Book edited by Anders Blok, Ignacio Farias andCelia Roberts, with contributions from CSI researchers, Fabian Muniesa, David Pontille, Liliana Doganova and Jérôme Denis.
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This companion explores ANT as an intellectual practice, tracking its movements and engagements with a wide range of other academic and activist projects. Showcasing the work of a diverse set of ‘second generation’ ANT scholars from around the world, it highlights the exciting depth and breadth of contemporary ANT and its future possibilities.
The companion has 38 chapters, each answering a key question about ANT and its capacities. Early chapters explore ANT as an intellectual practice and highlight ANT’s dialogues with other fields and key theorists. Others open critical, provocative discussions of its limitations. Later sections explore how ANT has been developed in a range of social scientific fields and how it has been used to explore a wide range of scales and sites. Chapters in the final section discuss ANT’s involvement in ‘real world’ endeavours such as disability and environmental activism, and even running a Chilean hospital. Each chapter contains an overview of relevant work and introduces original examples and ideas from the authors’ recent research. The chapters orient readers in rich, complex fields and can be read in any order or combination. Throughout the volume, authors mobilise ANT to explore and account for a range of exciting case studies: from wheelchair activism to parliamentary decision-making; from racial profiling to energy consumption monitoring; from queer sex to Korean cities. A comprehensive introduction by the editors explores the significance of ANT more broadly and provides an overview of the volume.
The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory will be an inspiring and lively companion to academics and advanced undergraduates and postgraduates from across many disciplines across the social sciences, including Sociology, Geography, Politics and Urban Studies, Environmental Studies and STS, and anyone wishing to engage with ANT, to understand what it has already been used to do and to imagine what it might do in the future.
The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory, Edited by Anders Blok, Ignacio Farias and Celia Roberts, Routledge, 2019, 422 pages.
Chapter 6 | Is ANT a critique of capital? – Fabian Muniesa
Is actor-network theory of use for a critique of capital? Is the critique of capital something that can make sense within the ANT mind? A close look at the economic preoccupations that have characterised the work of Bruno Latour and Michel Callon within this tradition serves here the purpose of highlighting a possible thread in this direction: Namely in the direction of considering capital as an operation of translation. Three historical periods are roughly sketched out, each marked by a defining concern: First scientific capitalisation, then the construction of markets, and finally economic eschatology. The way in which capital features or not as a fully-fledged operation of translation in each is discussed. A few suggestions are offered in addition for a more accomplished transformation of ANT into a critical anthropology of capitalisation. Is actor-network theory of use for a critique of capital? Is the critique of capital something that can make sense within the ANT mind? A close look at the economic preoccupations that have characterised the work of Bruno Latour and Michel Callon within this tradition serves here the purpose of highlighting a possible thread in this direction: Namely in the direction of considering capital as an operation of translation. Three historical periods are roughly sketched out, each marked by a defining concern: First scientific capitalisation, then the construction of markets, and finally economic eschatology. The way in which capital features or not as a fully-fledged operation of translation in each is discussed. A few suggestions are offered in addition for a more accomplished transformation of ANT into a critical anthropology of capitalisation.
Chapter 10 | What did we forget about ANT’s roots in anthropology of writing? – D. Pontille Jérôme
This chapter goes back to some ANT’s forgotten roots in anthropology of writing, by recalling its initial interest in traces and written objects produced in workplaces (scientific laboratories, city administration offices, firms or state departments). Stepping aside from the usual approach in terms of “immutable mobiles,” this chapter draws on studies in anthropology of writing in order to explore the multiplicity of inscriptions. The role of writing is discussed in relation to two main aspects: Forms of reasoning and modes of governing. On the one side, anthropology of writing invites, with early ANT, to examine the crucial part that the materials involved in writing practices – from staplers and post-it notes to inscription devices and intellectual technologies – play in cognitive processes. On the other side, it highlights the importance of both order and disorder in the ways inscriptions participate in various modes of organising and governing. Insisting on stabilisation and formalisation alone obscures the dynamic, uncertain and messy character of many writing practices, and the fragmentation of information infrastructures. Finally, the chapter reminds that anthropology of writing helps to overcome an overly mechanical vision of written accounts’ agency by investigating the role of neglected practices in producing knowledge and performing politics.
Chapter 24 | What is the value of ANT research into economic valuation devices? – Liliana Doganova
What is the value of ANT research into economic valuation devices? This question serves as a starting point to sketch the perspectives opened by ANT’s incursions onto the problem of value. I start by observing that while early ANT works took scientific research as a central object of analysis, and occurred in the midst of the push towards the “valorization” of scientific research, they did not regard the question of the economic value of research as central. Recent ANT-inspired analyses have addressed this question frontally, and they have radically transformed it, by shifting attention from the measurement and amplification of economic value, to the analysis of valuation processes, practices and devices. The chapter then explores what these analyses can bring to ANT research, on the one hand, and to contemporary political debates, on the other hand. I argue that the value of ANT research into economic valuation devices might well lie in its ability to broaden scholarly and popular visions of the economy beyond the locus of markets, and to provide analytical tools for describing and engaging with the economic devices that frame problems of value today.
Chapter 27 | Why do maintenance and repair matter? – David J. Denis
This chapter introduces the recent works that compose what the author proposes to call “maintenance and repair studies.” It identifies two of their main contributions to ANT. Because they take place in a continuum between regular use and outright failure, maintenance and repair activities first invite to reconsider the role usually attributed to breakdown in the study of technologies. Maintenance and repair studies investigate a wide range of states in which objects, technologies and infrastructures can be found throughout their lives. Accordingly, some of these works show that failures and breakdown are not necessarily clearly and collectively identifiable events. Rather, as well as stability and order itself, they are relational phenomena that emerge from specific maintenance practices. Second, maintenance and repair studies decentre the way materiality is generally discussed in social sciences. Whilst most ANT-inspired works have typically focused on solidity, resistance and permanence to problematise objects’ agency, detailed examinations of maintenance and repair practices put material fragility and diversity to the fore. Activities such as mending, restoring, upkeep, fixing or preserving offer manifold occasions to fathom the material ecology that is hidden when objects are apprehended as crystallised artefacts.