Re: Bruno Latour

Keir Reavie (kreavie@SHIFFMAN.MED.WAYNE.EDU)
Fri, 7 Oct 1994 07:46:50 -0400

On Thu, 6 Oct 1994, wilkr wrote:

> Now that we have made Taussig human, anyone want to take on Bruno Latour?
> I am about 80 pages into "We Have Never Been Modern" and cannot figure
> out whether this is persuasive trickery, confusing french intellectual
> gamespersonship with the ultimate goal of demonstrating how smart BL is,
> or the first real attempt at a structuralist anthropology of modernity. I
> start with a basic agreement with his aims - I also don't believe we are
> in any way modern - but now I find myself half-amused and half bemused.
> Anyone else out there trying to read this guy? I just read a whole
> article ABOUT him in Lingua Franca, but it was also pretty obscure.
> Rick Wilk

I remember reading Latour's "Laboratory Life" about five years ago as
supplementary material for a course on Information Sources and Services in
Science and Technology and really enjoying it because it made soom sense
out of my experiences as a librarian providing information to the
scientific community. The book is an account of Latour's two years as an
anthropologist in an neuroendocrinology laboratory studying the process by
which scientists create new information and subsequently advance science.
Without getting into details, the end result of his study reveals that the
process of science is as subjective as objective, that modern science,
purported to advance via the strict empirical process, is not truly
empirical. I probably understood this central idea in the book because I
approached it based on earlier research on the historical, social and
cultural aspects of science and its advancement, rather than as an
anthropologist. Hence, this little message tells you nothing about his
methodology, which I wouldn't want to comment on without first reading "We
Have Never Been Modern" and re-reading "Laboratory Life". It was Latour's
conclusions that worked well for me, which may say something about the
validity of his approach.

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