Assessing Latour: The case of the sickle cell body in history
The work of Bruno Latour has animated debates in sociology, anthropology and philosophy over several decades, whilst attracting criticisms of the ontological, epistemological and political implications of his focus on networks. This paper takes a particular depth example - the case of the genetic condition of sickle cell – and, drawing upon anthropological, archaeological and sociological evidence of the sickle cell body in history, appraises early, and later, Latourian ideas. The paper concludes that whilst methodologically useful in drawing attention to the complicated links of humans, animals and things, concerns remain about Latourian ontological claims. Limitations include an empiricist failure to account for absence; an insufficiently robust conception of emergence; an unwarranted curtailment of counterfactual human knowledge; a lack of concern for serial “undeserving losers”; according excessive freedoms to human actors; and a lack of a conception of how things may be considered as agents rather than actants.
The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.
Citation : Dyson, S. M. (2018) Assessing Latour: The case of the sickle cell body in history. European Journal of Social Theory.
ISSN : 1368-4310
Research Group : Unit for the Social Study of Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell
Research Institute : Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research
Peer Reviewed : Yes