Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory

By Bruno Latour | Go to book overview

Second Move: Redistributing
the Local

By equipping inquirers’ toolboxes with different instruments (oligopticas and panoramas), we have allowed them to localize the global and to accompany it safely back inside the circuits in which it now circulates back and forth. Whenever the urge to go away from local interactions manifested itself, and instead of trying some salto mortale toward the invisible rear-world of the social context, I proposed to trudge toward the many local places where the global, the structural, and the total were being assembled and where they expand outward thanks to the laying down of specific cables and conduits. If you keep doing this long enough, the same effects of hierarchy and asymmetry that before were visible will now emerge out of strings of juxtaposed localities. Since they are pinpointed inside the many oligoptica and panoramas, there is nothing wrong any more with using the word ‘contexts’. The vehicles that transport their effects have number plates and well-written labels, much like moving vans. From time to time, contexts are gathered, summed up, and staged inside specific rooms into coherent panoramas adding their many contradictory structuring effects to the sites to be ‘contextualized’ and ‘structured’.

Needless to say, there exists no other place in which to sum up all those sites—at least not yet. So it would be quite foolish to ask ‘in which’ super-mega-macro-structure they all reside—in the same way as it has become wholly irrelevant to try to detect, after relativity theory, the ether wind ‘through which’ the Earth passes. There exists no global all-encompassing place where, for instance, the control room of the Strategic Air Command, the Wall Street floor, the water pollution map, the census bureau, the Christian Coalition, and the United Nations would be gathered and summed up. And if someone tries to do so—as I am doing here in this paragraph—it is another place, another circuitous route loosely connected to the others with no claim to ‘embed’ or ‘know’ them. If a place wishes to dominate all the others for good, that’s just fine. But it will have to pay for every item of

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