Accepted paper:

Politicizing actor-networks: A discussion of the why's and how's


Samuel Tettner (Linkoping University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

This is a proposed discussion on the ways Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can be politicized. ANT has developed an apolitical reputation:As early as 1991 Susan Leigh Star criticised ANT for adhering to a narrative of network-making as managerial, militant and "masculinist"(Star, 1991). The processes of assembly-making through alignment or enrolment have been seem as perhaps "overly overly triumphalist and voluntaristic" (Oppenheim, 2007). Within STS, groups like postcolonial STS or feminist STS have expressed a lack of confidence in ANT: David Bloor (1999) maintains that because of its vocabulary, ANT can merely describe power structures, but never truly challenge them.

These criticisms have been partially responded. Latour's article (2004) can be seen as a direct response to the "critical theory" attacks on ANT. Reassembling the social (Latour, 2005) can also be seen as an attempt to bring politics and ANT together. For me, the clearest example what a political understanding of ANT can look like is the body of work of John Law and Annemarie Mol, what can be considered "post-ANT."

Direct theoretical and empirical evidence of how ANT can be a politically engaged and active tool are not very common. This discussion aims to understand why, historically and theoretically speaking, this has been the case, and what we can do about it. This discussion is vital to the theme of understanding collective political action with a material-semiotic sensibility. Perhaps it can help answer the question of why "ANT perspectives that contribute to the general study of social movements" are still pending.

panel S10
Actor networks