Advance reviews of the first four books
Science & Technology Studies has very generously reviewed advance copies of our first four books. The collection is published in their latest issue, which can be read here.
Here follow some brief extracts, reprinted with permission of the journal:
[...] One of the longstanding critiques of STS approaches to markets is their failure to develop a critical edge, to account for power and domination. These claims are part of a long debate that I don’t wish to revisit. Rather, I want to point to Cochoy’s account of curiosity as offering an exemplary way of understanding market powers in a non reductionist way. If we see power not as a noun or possession but as an activity, as a capacity to shape performances in certain ways, then it is possible to understand the significance of curiosity as a force that activates and animates markets and shapes their effects. Cochoy’s achievement in this superb book is to show how the force of curiosity has been historically anchored in markets, helping them realise or constitute a multiplicity of realities not just economic ones. His project is not to judge the effects of curiosity but to understand exactly how this force effects or constitutes market realities. This, to my mind, is far more politically valuable than critique for it points to the contingencies of markets and their constant vulnerability to contestation. And, more significantly, to the activation of curiosities that can make trouble for markets and provoke significant political effects. On Curiosity is a great book – thinking like this reminds us of how powerful ‘the market’ is for investigating so many aspects of the social. [...]
[...] Similarly remarkable was her ‘working up’ of the empirical data. Being at the office again after three months of fieldwork, MacKnight faces the task that is familiar to most of her readers: analyzing an enormous amount of research data. Ten thousand words of field notes, hundreds of paintings and stories created by children, three and a half hour of interviews, school brochures and curricula have to be ordered in one way or the other. “Well, I thought, nothing will happen if I just sit here; I should do something” (MacKnight, 2016: 60). So, she starts piling, un-piling and re-piling the paintings of the children, thinking about the arguments she could make with each of the piles and the theoretical formats she is adopting by doing so. MacKnight makes visible the ethical and political consequences of ordering the data according to ‘generalization’ and ‘typologies’, ‘meaning’ and ‘the politics of becoming’. She makes us see how the selected approaches makes more familiar or less familiar sense, arguing that the politics of experimentation, enacted by theorizing imagination as the unpredictable outcome of human and non-human interactions, is the most ethical approach. As with the elegant line of argument, the section of the book on experimental theorizing convinces the reader with a seemingly effortless narration, guided by careful reflection. [...]
[...] The excess that I find most compelling lies in the incredible array of things, materials, colors, sounds, forms (folds), artworks, and sensualities; it is materials first almost always. Verran and Winthereik’s particularly lucid chapter presents a contrast between the technoscience engineering object (exemplified by a diagram presenting the potential steps towards promoting wave energy innovation) and a sixteenth century baldachin (a tapestry throne canopy). Both are diagrams, devices that are “ephemeral clots of material semiotic resources” with the dual function ofrepresentation and “pilotage” (material guides towards future action). The technoscience diagram represents but does not guide; its aim is non-contradiction. The baldachin does both – materially foregrounding “complexity, openness, and emergence” and enabling equivocation. Hugh Raffles’ in search of the London Stone is guided by multiple traces of its material life. The Stone in fact “tangles” time. Its slow, oolitic life of geological time and hard materiality would appear to anchor it – but it is repeatedly cut adrift by Raffles’ fractured description until it more closely resembles a fluid vortex. And what would appear to be a contrast, therefore, with the clafoutis – the sugary fruit dessert of Mol’s wonderfully evocative chapter – turns out to be none at all. Mol argues that unlike a baroque church (or the London stone, say) in which the parts are permanently held together, the baroque coherence of the clafoutis (a composite figure composed of the absence/presence of diverse worlds) is just as resilient. [...]
[...] A fun thought experiment to play with many edited collections is to imagine the authors sat together around a seminar table. Who will be the naughty one, deliberately provoking the others? Who will intervene in a calm measured tone, urging the need for synthesis? Who will sit there quietly furious, determined to have done with the conversation? Fortunately this is unnecessary with this collection. The authors are all, more or less, in agreement that a) comparison has a deserved bad reputation and we have spent some time running away from it as a practice, and b) that this has only rendered the process of comparison opaque and we must creatively rework how comparison is enacted. This is addressed by all of the authors without any grandstanding or theoretical hi-jinkery. The overwhelming sense is of sleeves rolled up and hard work being done systematically. [...]