After circling around it for a few weeks now, we begin our reading of An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence (2013). In this work, written over the past 30 years, Latour presents a pluralist ontology that encounters multiple modes of existence, each of which has its own beings, languages and forms of worth. We discover that the network, which by now we are thoroughly familiar with, is only one mode among others: religion, the subject of Latour’s doctoral research, is another; the ‘mode of existence of technical objects’ (Simondon) a third. Latour’s goal in elaborating each of these modes is to facilitate ‘an anthropology of the Moderns’, which would bring together in a ‘cosmopolitical’ fashion disparate collectives.
The Inquiry often revisits key stories and sorties from Latour’s previous work; a familiarity with the ANT/STS canon is rewarded but not required. Latour recently published a potted history of the ‘encounters’ that led to the present work. For those interested, our lead-up reading included: Jim Johnson’s “Mixing Humans and Non-Humans Together”; “Relativism” from We Have Never Been Modern; and “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik”, the introduction to the Making Things Public catalogue.
Mode of delivery
The Inquiry also exists as a free online version with thorough hyperlinks to definitions and citations, and is worth exploring even if you prefer to read the scans we will be uploading. It can be accessed at: http://www.modesofexistence.org. We will also provide suggested accompanying readings in some weeks to frame and feed into our discussion of the set chapter.
1st October Ch. 2 “Collecting Documents for the Inquiry”
8th October Ch. 4 “Learning to Make Room”
15th October Ch. 8 “Making the Beings of Technology Visible”
22nd October Ch. 12 “Invoking the Phantoms of the Political”
29th October Ch. 16 “Intensifying the Experience of Scruples”
This schedule will allow participants to read the book in its entirety over five weeks, or to explore key moments in Latour’s new book with the group.