i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

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Bruno Latour
Posted on 10 October 2022


It is with great sadness that the Center for the Sociology of Innovation has learned of the death of Bruno Latour, who was for 25 years one of the pillars of our research center. He developed his research and teaching activities at the École des Mines from 1982 to 2006, carrying out a large part of the work for which he is best known. With Michel Callon and John Law in England, and later Madeleine Akrich and many other researchers, he led a radical renewal of the sociology of science and technology, through what was first called the sociology of translation, and then Actor-Network Theory – a theory soon to become internationally renowned. From his early days onwards, Latour had used what Callon and Law would call the principle of symmetry, which was as revolutionary in the eyes of anthropologists as it was in the eyes of epistemologists, in order to analyze the production of knowledge in Côte d’Ivoire with the tools of science, and the work of researchers in a Californian laboratory with the tools of anthropology. His stance: the universal is a particular like any other, it is the result of the meticulous production of inscriptions, not the discovery of a Nature that is already there.

His research in history, sociology and philosophy initially focused on scientific activity (Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts [1979, with Steve Woolgar]; The Pasteurization of France [1988]; Science in Action, How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society [1987]) and technical innovation (Aramis or the Love of Technology [1996]). They found a favorable resonance within an engineering school, whilst science and technology were relatively ignored by the French social sciences. Already, however, the political philosophy reflection is present in these early works, and became an increasingly explicit focus of the approach he developed from the 1990s onwards (We have never been modern [1993]; The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d’Etat [2009]). It problematizes our relationship to nature (Politics of Nature. How to bring the sciences into democracy [2001] 2004; Pandora’s Hope [1999]), a theme that would drive him until the end of his career.

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