Accepted Paper:

Constitutional Ecology of Practices. From Network to Process  


Niels van Dijk (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Paper short abstract:

A philosophy of common standing is developed by extracting a constitutional ecology from Latour’s Politics of Nature. A reinterpretation as ‘epigram’, a model for ordering roles of practices, renders it mobilizable in collaborative settings. This installs a mirror for STS and opens links with law.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution explores the role of constitutional thought in STS. After an interpretation of five conceptions of politics in Latour's oeuvre, it will study his non-modern proposal in the Politics of Nature and argue for a constitutional rather than political understanding. Constitutio is taken as a cause of standing together so that something is established or set up in which this cause is taken care of (institutio). Through this philosophy of common standing we arrive at a 'constitutional ecology of practices' replacing political ecology. The term highlights that different practices like politics, science, organization and law all contribute to the design of the stage and processes for composing a common world. Latour's bicameral proposal and its negative counterpart of the modern constitution are reinterpreted as 'epigrams', a heuristic notion coined in the context of ethnography of interdisciplinary research, i.e. as practical models for ordering contributions of different practices into constellations of hierarchical relationships. This renders them mobilizable as cross-cutting models for thinking about these relations in concrete collaborative settings in which different practices deal with shared issues. We can hereby also detect a shift from a network-based way of relating practices to one which is (due) process-based. In this way, epigrams can serve to explicate elements of constitutionality within STS discourses more generally and be used as a tool of reflexivity for how STS relates to other practices. This paves the way for engagement with more normative and ordering practices like politics and administration, but especially law.

Panel T023
Science Is Politics by Other Means Revisited