This year the General Anthropology Division (GAD) welcomed Bruno Latour as its Distinguished Lecturer at the 112th Annual Meeting of the AAA. Latour’s talk, “What Is the Recommended Dose of Ontological Pluralism for a Safe Anthropological Diplomacy?” was recorded on video, presented here with my opening remarks.
Latour has been at Sciences Po Paris since 2007, first serving five years as Vice President of Research before returning to the faculty as Professor.
Latour’s work is as expansive as it is influential, crossing disciplinary boundaries from science and technology studies, to anthropology and archaeology, religion, architecture, and environmental studies as readily as the humans and objects Latour connects into large agential networks in his actor-network theory, or ANT. Professor Latour’s research began with his doctoral work on Biblical exegesis. He then moved to studies of science that brought ethnography into a scientific laboratory leading to his books Laboratory Life (1979), co-authored with Steve Woolgar, The Pasteurization of France (1988), and the widely influential Science In Action (1987).
Not satisfied with actor-network theory as it stood and the “social turn” of which ANT was a significant contributor in science and technology studies, Latour remade ANT in Reassembling the Social (2005). Arguing that “the social” and “society” represented the same kind of black boxes in the social sciences that the social turn in STS had attacked in the realm of technoscience, Latour proposed that “society” entails a concrete set of relationships that are reassembled in particular ways that vary across contexts like law, religion, and science.
What links Professor Latour’s studies of religion and science, is his ongoing interest in regimes of truth which led to his reworking of ANT in Reassembling the Social and to his studies of modernity in his book We Have Never Been Modern that challenges the reality of “modern” dichotomies that separate nature from culture and humans from things; and his most recent volume, An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence (2013).
Special thanks to Jennifer Cool for transcoding and uploading this video.