(B05)
Crafting attachments, making worlds
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 23
Date and Start Time 25 Jul, 2018 at 13:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Else Vogel (Linköping University) email
  • Justine Laurent (University of Amsterdam) email
  • Annelieke Driessen (London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) email

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Discussant Marianne de Laet (Harvey Mudd College)

Short abstract

This panel seeks to explore values, tastes and passions as among "those things that hold us together" (Hennion, 2007). It gathers empirical studies of practices and 'dispositifs' through which attachments to diverse 'goods' are crafted, including researchers' attachments to their fields of study.

Long abstract

This panel gathers empirical studies of the practices through which people express and develop attachments to diverse 'goods'. Over the last few years, STS research has taken up affectivity as both an object of inquiry and a scholarly concern. As a result, the analytical focus on normativity expanded beyond the norms through which we are ordered simultaneously as individuals and as part of a collective: 'those things that hold us together' (Hennion, 2007) include how we organize around what we deem 'good', what we value or are inspired by, and the way our passions move us. The sociology of attachment has been particularly attentive to the generative role of socio-material conditions and constraints in creating sensitive worlds, bodies and subjects.

Through situated case studies, this panel seeks to interrogate: the collective orchestration of (dis)attachments, including the role of knowledge, professionals, objects and environments (e.g. who/what is involved and what occurs); learning to be affected as a craft or skill shaped and learned over time; the normativities embedded in various 'dispositifs', particularly in cases of manipulation or discipline or when different, clashing goods are at play. Lastly, submissions may reflect on how STS researchers craft attachments to their fields of study.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Clean enough": attachments and detachments in practices of excretion

Author: Justine Laurent (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short abstract

Here I attend to practices of excretion in potty training, to reveal how "clean enough" emerges as a key value. Rather than an ideal, though, this good is achieved and negotiated in practices through situated and adapting thresholds - allowing us to rearticulate attachment and normativities.

Long abstract

The practices of excretion are usually framed through the regime of hygiene and its moral and biomedical connotations. In my fieldwork with people potty-training though, a concern that emerged preceding hygiene was the value of "clean enough".

Attending to the orchestration of this good, I foreground how different forms and degrees of attachment and detachment emerge in practice. Seeing, smelling or feeling clean - as well as learning and achieving clean - are crucial to how "clean enough" is enacted. In practices of excretion then, rather than an ideal, this good takes the form of situated, relational, pragmatic thresholds that are obstinately material-semiotic. They involved toilet paper, diapers, bathrooms, smells, clothes, washing machines, diets, daily schedules, but also feelings, emotions, social context, infrastructure and logistics.

Unraveling these dynamics of "clean enough" I also notice how my own attachment as a researcher impacts practices of defecation, as my presence intensified a moral charge of cleanliness, sometimes changing how my informants handled excretion. In this way, the presentation contributes to the panel's effort to articulate values to "those things that hold us together" (Hennion, 2007). Excretion reveals how the ongoing and makeshift togetherness orchestrated in cleaning the shitting body does not involve the good of clean as a stable and fixed ideal, but rather involves a continuous negotiation of different situated.

Curated detachment: how to translate aesthetic experiences of 'ugly socialism' into 'beautiful modernism'

Author: Anastasiya Halauniova (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short abstract

.The paper explores analytic possibilities of the concept 'detachment'. By building on interviews with architects, activists, and city officials of the city of Wroclaw, Poland, the paper traces the ways in which estrangement can be, literally, 'curated' in the urban politics.

Long abstract

While recent scholarship on 'taste' has been preoccupied with the attachment (Hennion, 2017; Blok, 2015), its analytical opposite - detachment - received little to no attention. Conceptualised as a form of alienation (Negus and Velazquez, 2002), or resulting from a change in the economic value of 'goods' (Graham, 2016), detachment seems to have no analytic utility of its own. This paper seeks to extend the understanding of 'detachment' in social studies, by building on the case of Wroclaw, Poland. This city was annexed from Germany after the WWII and partially rebuilt in the socialist modernist style afterwards, that has experienced a re-evaluation since the 1990s. This process brought to a sharp relief the politics of valuation and taste.

This paper focuses on how aesthetic detachment from socialist architecture in the city is being 'curated', and what practices aim at translating the 'ugly socialist' architecture into the 'beautiful modernist' one. Contrary to Latour's understanding of detachment as 'poor attachment' to a good (1999), it shows that detachment requires an enormous amount of work. By asking the question of how the shift in taste happens and how the skill of seeing 'beauty' in something that is commonly evaluated as 'ugly' is crafted and learned, I problematise the role of aesthetic detachment and attachment as the 'politics by other means'(Mukerji, 2012). In that sense, aesthetic detachment and attachment are being enacted in production of particular historical narratives about the city and its political imaginary as modern, international and experiencing no rupture (or disruption).

Making clients to decide for themselves: turning people with learning difficulties into "modern subjects"

Authors: Zdeněk Konopásek (Charles University) email
Michal Synek (Charles University / Masaryk University) email
Radek Carboch (Masaryk University, Charles University) email
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Short abstract

We discuss the practical, ethical and theoretical problem of "autonomous decision-making" in the context of social services for people with learning difficulties. How to de-attach (emancipate) the clients of these services from professional assistance? By what specific re-attachments?

Long abstract

In our study of social services for people with learning difficulties we focus on efforts aiming at their emancipation, i.e. at making them as independent on institutions and professionals as possible. Emphasis is being put on what is called "autonomous decision-making" about one's life - what to do, what to buy, where to go and when. These decisions are to be based on authentic and unrestricted expression of clients' desires and passions. Professionals are instructed and trained to move from making decisions on behalf of their (passive) clients to providing sensitive support for the activity of decision-making, performed preferably by the clients themselves.

But how to make clients to "decide for themselves", co-creating a world for them, which would resemble the world of all other people? How to de-attach them from professional assistance? Sometimes it may seem that a simple redistribution of passivity and activity among professionals and their clients suffices. Even the official instructions and guides often imply that the less support from the others is offered, the more free and autonomous ("normal") decision is made by the client - an ideal, desirable, but not always achievable situation. However, a closer look at the emancipating practices reveal that: (a) a lot of carefully orchestrated professional action, including enormous amount of paperwork, is mobilized to make one do things; (b) it is the quality of particular attachments - and not a reversal of activity/passivity - what makes a desirable difference. Misunderstandings about this may bring about perverted results.

Mexicanness, hybrid attachments and the economy of passion

Author: Maximino Matus (El Colegio de la Frontera Norte) email
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Short abstract

The paper analyzes how the desire to affect and be affected by foreign bodies informs the commoditization of food products offered in Mexican restaurants in Amsterdam, Madrid and San Francisco. I argue that actors' attachments to passionate networks enable diverse Mexican foodscapes to be enacted.

Long abstract

This paper analyzes how the desire to affect (affectus) and be affected by (affectio) foreign bodies informs the commoditization of food products offered in Mexican restaurants in Amsterdam, Madrid and San Francisco. I argue that actors' attachments to passionate networks enable diverse Mexican foodscapes to be enacted. I conceive of foodscapes as intersemiotic translations of landscapes. In these translations, food commoditization is based on relationships with entities dwelling in Mexican and U.S. landscapes. In their efforts to enact these affective foodscapes, entrepreneurs arrange entities according to particular themes, genres and chronotopes; they provide coherence to the translations; and they enable their repetition, opposition and adaptation. The resulting foodscapes have the power (power as both pouvoir and puissance) to function as potent or impotent signs, which are able to constitute or destroy relations among bodies by fixing beliefs or contaminating new passions.

This paper also explores how the researcher became interested in the study of "passionate networks" by explaining how people used to attach his "Mexican body" to certain objects (e.g. cactus, food, tequila, songs and ponchos), knowledge (e.g. how to drink tequila), and affections (affectio) and also explores how the same phenomena extended to Mexican restaurants. I argue that somehow, in both cases (my own self and the restaurants), Mexicanness is produced by attachments of objects, bodies and images; by extension, attachments associate our hybrid bodies to affections related to Mexicanness: happiness, informality, relaxed behavior, etc.

Non-interventions as form of care

Authors: Annelieke Driessen (London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) email
Erica Borgstrom (Open University ) email
Simon Cohn (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) email
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Short abstract

In this presentation we show that not intervening appears as a difficult thing to do in palliative care. In doing so, we blur the lines between 'doing' and 'not-doing', as to help articulate active non-interventions as a form of care.

Long abstract

Central to Modern medicine's acclaim is its power to intervene. This risks to make non-interventions appear as a form of neglect. In this presentation, we draw on fieldwork in dementia care in the Netherlands, and palliative care settings in the UK. Here, not intervening appears as a difficult thing to do. We explore practices of halting treatment or not starting further treatments as efforts to detach from the wish to treat and cure, in order to open up possibilities for patients to die in ways that honor what they value in life. We argue that paradoxically, in clinical settings doing non-interventions may be more work than intervening, thereby blurring the lines between 'doing' and 'not-doing'. Drawing attention to this work may help to articulate non-intervening as an active form of care.

On getting attached to music. Strategies and drivers of loving music in everyday life.

Author: Víctor Ávila Torres (University of York) email
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Short abstract

Based on a research in Mexico and the UK, this presentation focus on the four-stage process in which the listener gets attached to music in the digital world, as well as the meaningful attachments emerging from that process, making the practice of listening music meaningful in the digital era.

Long abstract

Technological change in music consumption has transformed the ways in which listeners discover and engage with music in everyday life. Beyond challenging music industry models/processes and transforming the very act of creation, technologies of listening to music have developed new practices and ways of being engaged with music in everyday life. Hence, new ways in which music is understood as something valuable for the listener.

My research, based on 42 interviews in Mexico and the United Kingdom, is based on the notion of music experiences as assemblages in which music, sound, devices, places, expectations, social meanings, individual expectations and unexpected outcomes play a crucial role.

My data suggest that different assemblages are part of a four-stage process in which the listener (1) discovers new music, (2) drills it continuously to (3) assign meanings and finally (4) sets it with a specific role in its life. That is not a linear process though, but rather part of a continuous interrelationship in which certain forms of attachment are produced. In this presentation, I will explore those forms of attachment and will try to show how popular music, through new digital devices, is still valuable for the individual and the social world.

Persistent attachments: chronic pain and the post-ANT theoretical repertoire

Author: Else Vogel (Linköping University) email
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Short abstract

The paper details rehabilitation practices where persistent pain is configured as an effect of ambiguous and heterogeneous sets of attachments. I explore how these therapies, that enact lives as always becoming-in-relation, help to self-reflexively sharpen post-ANT analytic terms and attachments.

Long abstract

The paper explores a striking parallel between the post-ANT theoretical repertoire, which foregoes causal explanations in favour of tracing 'actors-enacted' (Law & Mol 2008) in practices, and therapeutic efforts to perform active self-caring subjects in rehabilitation practices for chronic pain and fatigue. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, I show that the focus in these clinics lies on 'doing oneself well' in order to create space that prevents people from entirely succumbing to their pain. Profound considerations of what is good or meaningful come to the fore in very mundane practices such as walking, cooking and playing. I detail the everyday life scenes in which this frail process of personal transformation unfolds, while highlighting how medical treatment trajectories shape these transformations, both practically and normatively. Through introducing knowledge, techniques and socialities, people with chronic pain are invited to leave a world of substances, in which pain is enacted as the result of tissue damage, to inhabit a world of patterns, responses and processes. Persistent pain is thus configured as an effect of ambiguous and heterogeneous sets of attachments. Part of the task of rehabilitation patients face is exploring and appreciating the quality of attachments, and then releasing and adjusting them. The self-cultivation processes I describe are not threatened by the possibility of breakage, but haunted by blockage, passivity and closure. Focusing on the STS analytic sensitivity for multiplicity, heterogeneity and relationality, I explore how therapies that enact lives as becoming-in-relation help to self-reflexively sharpen material semiotic terms and attachments.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.