Tag Archive: Latour


My upcoming talk at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs comes from the East European strand of my research.

The talk will be called “Becoming Tuteishyi: Peregrinations in the Zona of Ukraine, with Walter, Gloria, Andrei, Bruno, and Other Explorers.”

The description reads as follows:

Drawing on the author’s research and travels, this talk will consider Ukraine’s ambiguous positioning within global cultural discourse by recourse to theories of borderlands (via Walter Mignolo and Gloria Anzaldua), hybridity and amodernity (via Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway), postcommunism and postcolonialism, and to images of anomalous zones and errant wanderings, with particular attention to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

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For interdisciplinary scholars, it’s always a challenge to decide which conferences to attend and which to forgo. The problem is particularly acute when the conferences are held at the same time, as occurred last week with the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and American Academy of Religion (AAR).

As I’ve been attending both of them off and on for years, the decision hinged for me around the fact that I had organized the Latour session at the AAR.

Latour himself, however, would be attending the AAA. (We tried to get him to bilocate, but didn’t succeed.) And it turns out that his session, “The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology” — featuring an all-star cast of Philippe Descola, Marshall Sahlins, Michael M. J. Fischer, Kim Fortun, and Latour — was scheduled for the very same time as our panel.

It also turns out, as Rex relates at Savage Minds, that ontology was “the big theme” at the AAA this year.

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The following are my notes from “Querying Natural Religion: Immanence, Gaia, and the Parliament of Lively Things.” (Live-blogging did not work, as we didn’t have a live internet connection.) These notes are followed by a brief set of post-event summary comments.

The setting: an airplane hangar of a hall in the Baltimore Convention Center. This made the audience of some 120 seem like a puny one.

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Imminently in Baltimore

Get ready for the lively parliament of immanent Gaianly agents…

Querying Natural Religion: Immanence, Gaia, and the Parliament of Lively Things” will take place this Saturday afternoon in the Baltimore Convention Center (right after Karen Armstrong’s plenary in the same room, on “The Science of Compassion”).

The revised speaker line-up is below. Unfortunately, Jane Bennett will not be able to present. And Bruno Latour cannot make it as respondent, but we hope to get a response from him in the special issue of the JSRNC (and/or book) that will be developed from the talks.

I plan to live-blog the proceedings as best as I can.

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Reading AIME

I’m just managing to keep up with the Latour/AIME reading groups (both the one on my campus and the online one organized by Adam Robbert et al.), but not so much with the commentaries. Here’s my first brief reflection on the book…

1. You know that a scholar has made it to the top of the French academic heap when he can publish a 500-page book that lacks a single bibliographic reference.

2. That said, the references are evident for longtime readers of Latour, as the book is a culmination of View full article »

Latourian inquiries

Bruno Latour fans will know that the French anthropologist’s long-awaited follow-up to 1991′s game-changing theoretical provocation We Have Never Been Modern was released in its English translation just a few weeks ago. The book is called An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (and is becoming better known by its acronym “AIME”), and it provides a state-of-the-art summation of Latour’s project of producing an “anthropology of the moderns” — that is, of us.

Most interestingly, it does this as a multi-phase exercise in “interactive metaphysics,” which includes a participatory online web site intended to fill in the details and elicit commentary, debate, and refinement.

Hard-core fans will also likely have heard about Adam Robbert’s online AIME research group, which will be conducting a group reading beginning next week. The group currently involving several dozen participants (including myself — so you will be hearing about it here), but it is open to the public.

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The AAR panel responding to 2013 Holberg Prize winner Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures has now been scheduled. Information is as follows.

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QUERYING NATURAL RELIGION: IMMANENCE, GAIA, & THE PARLIAMENT OF LIVELY THINGS

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The beatnik brotherhood

Graham Harman’s note reiterating his position that Whitehead, Latour, Deleuze, Bergson, and Simondon (among others) do not make up a coherent philosophical “lump” — “pack” or “tribe” might be more colorful terms here (if philosophers were cats, how herdable would they be?) — makes me want to clarify my own position on these thinkers.

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The comments on this previous post resulted in my doing a bit of quick research (methodology: googling) on how often the terms “constructivism” and “constructionism” get used in relation to certain theorists and theoretical terms.

Here are the results. I’ve put the “winning” terms in bold:

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Since there isn’t much available in English about Philippe Descola’s writings on animism, I thought I would share a piece of the cosmopolitics argument I mentioned in my last post. It will appear, in modified form, in the concluding chapter of the SAR Press volume mentioned there. Most of the volume will consist of ethnographic case studies from around the world, but these will be informed by the theoretical conversations of the week we spent at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe.

Following this excerpt I have added some comments relating the ideas (discussed here) of Descola, Latour, and Stengers to some of the concepts I’ve been working with from Whitehead, Peirce, and the fields/discourses of biosemiotics and panpsychism. I haven’t seen these connections made (in this way, at least) in any of the literature by or on these authors, and I’m still working out these ideas myself, so that part is work-in-progress.

From animism to cosmopolitics

Animism, like the “primitive,” “pagan,” and “savage,” but also like “religion” itself, is a term has been used to classify cultural difference into a hierarchically valenced series: animists, for Edward Tylor and other evolutionists, were thought to have maintained a “lower” and more “primitive” conception of the universe, one peopled by spirits and with objects being ascribed human characteristics. In Tylor’s view, the animist “stage” of belief was followed by a polytheistic one, and in turn by a monotheistic one. This evolutionism has since been largely rejected, and more recently, a loose coterie of anthropologists and scholars of religion have reappropriated the term “animism” to mean something rather more interesting (Bird-David 1999; Descola 2005, 2006, 2009; Harvey 2006; Ingold 2000; Viveiros de Castro 1992, 2004). View full article »