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Newcomers to the farm

How do knowledge and power intersect? What are the realities that they enact? How do they foreclose other possibilities? How might alternatives be imagined? These are the core questions that lie behind the four areas of interest listed below which, in one way or another, are all about politics, power, knowing and framing.

Coloniality: knowledge, framing and power

Post-colonial knowledge encounters are power-saturated. I work: with Wen-yuan Lin (National Tsing-hua University, Hsin'chu Taiwan) on the encounters between biomedicine and Taiwanese medical practices; and colleagues from the Sámi Allaskuvla in Guovdageaidnu, and Oslo University on environmental concerns. Topics include: 'provincialising' STS; technoscience and local ecological knowledges; alternatives to hegemonic knowledges; and how to detect and respond to the Othering that goes with hegemony. The papers below relate to this set of concerns. For more details about each paper please visit the STS issues page.

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Framing nature and culture

How does nature relate to culture in a non-foundational era? How are they enacted? How are they entangled? How are they separated? What does it mean to separate them? How can a non-foundational politics respectful of the 'biosophere' be imagined? How might we frame these questions? I initially approached these issues by exploring the UK's 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. More recently I have: worked ethnographically with anthropologists Marianne Lien and Gro Ween on salmon farming in a project called Newcomers to the Farm; with Vicky Singleton (Lancaster University) on cattle farming in the UK; and with Solveig Joks, Liv Østmo and other collaborators at the Sámi Allaskuvla (The Sami University of Applied Sciences) in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino) in north Norway on non-binary Sámi understandings of 'nature'. Recent papers on nature, culture, framing, and politics include the following.

  • Solveig Joks, John Law and Liv Østmo (2019), 'Verbing Meahcci: no beginning, no end'
  • Solveig Joks and John Law (2019), 'Indigeneity, Science and Difference', Science, Technology and Human Values, 44 (3), 424-447, available as an earlier version at Indigeneity, science and difference: notes on the politics of how
  • Wen-yuan Lin and John Law (2018), 'Working With Binaries: Patterning in a Postcolonial World'
  • Liv Østmo and John Law (2018), Environmental Humanities, 10 (2), 349-369, available as an earlier version at 'Mis/translation, colonialism and environmental conflict', in
  • John Law and Marianne E. Lien (2018), 'Denaturalising Nature', in Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser (eds), A World of Many Worlds, Durham, Duke University Press, pp 131-171.
  • John Law and Wen-yuan Lin (2018), Tidescapes: notes on a Shi-inflected STS, Journal of World Philosophies, 3 (1), 1-16; earlier version available at Tidescapes: notes on a Shi-inflected social science.
  • Heather Swanson, John Law and Marianne Lien (2018), 'Modes of Naturing: or stories of salmon', in Terry Marsden (ed.), in The Sage Handbook of Nature: London, pp 868-891.
  • Marianne Lien and John Law (2019), 'The Ghost at the Banquet: Ceremony, Community and Industrial Growth in West Norway' in Penny Harvey, Knut Nustad, and Christian Krohn-Hansen, Anthropos and the Material, Duke University Press, pp 296-220.
  • Wen-yuan Lin and John Law (2107), Knowing Between: patterning, ziran and nature
  • Solveig Joks and John Law (2017), Sámi Salmon, State Salmon: LEK, Technoscience and Care, updated version published in Vicky Singleton, Claire Waterton, and Natalie Gill (ed.)Care and Policy Practices: Translations, Assemblages, Interventions, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 150-171
  • Liv Østmo and John Law (2017), On Land and Lakes: Colonizing the North, published in Technosphere online magazine.
  • John Law and Solveig Joks (2017), Luossa and Laks: Salmon, Science and LEK, published in Revue d'Anthropologie des Connaissances, 12, (2): aw-bi.
  • Marianne Lien and John Law (2016), 'The Salmon Domus as a site of mediation', Chapter in Tone Druglitro and Kristian Bjorkedal (eds), Animal Housing; Politics, Practices and Infrastructures, Farnham UK, Ashgate, pp 15-28.
  • John Law and Marianne Lien (2016), 'The Practices of Fishy Sentience', in Kristin Asdal, Tone Druglitro, and Steve Hinchliffe (eds), Humans, Animals and Biolpolitics: the more-than-human condition, Farnham UK, Ashgate, pp 30-47.
  • Marianne Lien and John Law (2016), 'What you need to know to be a fish farmer in West Norway', in Illana Gershon (ed.), A World of Work, Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, pp 28-43; also available at http://www.sv.uio.no/sai/english/research/projects/newcomers/publications/working-papers-web/what-you-need-to-know-to-be-a-fish-farmer.pdf
  • Vicky Singleton and John Law (2013), 'Devices as Rituals', Journal of Cultural Economy, 6: (3), 259-277
  • John Law and Marianne Lien (2013), 'Slippery: Field Notes on Empirical Ontology', Social Studies of Science, 43: (3), 363-387.
  • John Law and Marianne Lien (2013), 'Animal Architextures', in Penelope Harvey, Eleanor Casella, Gillian Evans, Hannah Knox, Christine McLean, Elizabeth Silva, Nicholas Thoburn and Kath Woodward (eds), Objects and Materials: a Routledge Companion, Abingdon and New York, Routledge, pp 329-337,
  • John Law (2012), 'Notes on Fish, Ponds and Theory', Norsk Antropologisk Tidskrift, 3-4, 225-236.
  • John Law and Ingunn Moser, 'Contexts and Culling' (2012), Science, Technology and Human Values, 37, 4, 332-354.
  • John Law (2012), 'Reality Failures' in Jan-Hendrik Passoth, Birgit Peuker and Michael Schillmeier (eds), Agency without Actors: New Approaches to Collective Action, Bielefeld: Transcript, pp 21-49.
  • Law, John and Annemarie Mol (2011), 'Veterinary Realities: What is Foot and Mouth Disease?', Sociologia Ruralis, 51 (1), 1-19.
  • Marianne Lien and John Law (2011), ''Emergent Aliens': On Salmon, Nature and Their Enactment', Ethnos, 76 (1), 65-87.
  • John Law (2010), 'Care and killing: tensions in veterinary practice', in Annemarie Mol, Ingunn Moser and Jeannette Pols (eds), Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms, Transcript, Bielefeld, pp 57-69.
  • John Law & Vicky Singleton (2009), 'A Further Species of Trouble?', Martin Doering & Brigitte Nerlich (eds), The Cultural Meaning of the 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK, Manchester, pp. 229-242.
  • John Law and Annemarie Mol (2008), 'Globalisation in Practice: On the Politics of Boiling Pigswill', Geoforum, 39: (1), 133-143.
  • John Law and Annemarie Mol (2008), 'The Actor-Enacted: Cumbrian Sheep in 2001', in Lambros Malafouris & Carl Knappett, Material Agency: Towards a Non-Anthropocentric Approach, Springer, pp. 55-77.
  • Law, John (2008), 'Practising Nature and Culture: an Essay for Ted Benton', in Sandra Moog and Rob Shields (eds), Nature, Social Relations and Human Needs: Essays in Honour of Ted Benton, London: Palgrave, pp 65-82.
  • John Law (2008), 'Culling, Catastrophe and Collectivity', Distinktion, 16, 61-76.
  • John Law (2006), 'Disaster in Agriculture, or Foot and Mouth Mobilities' Environment and Planning A, 38, 227-239.

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Methods, framing and performativity

Research methods enact and frame realities. They are performative. And they are also non-coherent. How, then, might we think about methods? What are the methods we need to know the world, to enact it, and to live well in it? This is the core question in a continuing series of substantive projects, within both natural and social science. Recent publications include the following.

  • John Law (2019), Material Semiotics
  • Wen-yuan Lin and John Law (2018), 'Working With Binaries: Patterning in a Postcolonial World'
  • John Law and Wen-yuan Lin (2018), 'Tidescapes: notes on a Shi-inflected STS', Journal of World Philosophies, 3 (1), 1-16; earlier version available at Tidescapes: notes on a Shi-inflected social science.
  • Wen-yuan Lin and John Law (2018), 'Where is East Asia in STS?'; forthcoming in East Asian Science, Technology and Society. Earlier version available at Where is East Asia in STS?
  • John Law (2018), 'Preface: the Politics of Ethnography', in Alexandra Plows (ed.), "Messy" Ethnographies for Messy Social Realities, Wilmington Delaware, Vernon Press, pp vii-x.
  • Wen-yuan Lin and John Law (2017), Knowing Between: patterning, ziran and nature
  • John Law (2017), 'STS as Method', Ulrike Felt, Clark Miller, Laurel Smith-Doerr, and Rayvon Fouche (eds), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass, pp 30-57.
  • John Law and Evelyn Ruppert (eds) (2016), Modes of Knowing: Resources from the Baroque, Mattering Press, Manchester, also available for open-source download at https://www.matteringpress.org/books/modes-of-knowing
  • John Law and Vicky Singleton (2014), 'ANT and politics: working in and on the world', Qualitative Sociology, 36 (4), 485-502.
  • John Law (2014), 'Working well with Wickedness', in Katrin Klingan, Ashkan Sepahvand, Christoph Rosol and Bernd M. Scherer (eds), Grain/Vapor/Ray, Haus de Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, pp. 157-176, also available at Manchester and the Open University, CRESC Working Paper 135 at http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/cresc/workingpapers/wp135.pdf
  • John Law and Evelyn Ruppert (2013), 'The Social Life of Methods: Devices', Journal of Cultural Economy, 6: (3), 229-240.
  • Evelyn Ruppert, John Law and Mike Savage (2013), 'Digital Devices: Reassembling Social Science Methods', Theory, Culture & Society, 30: (4), 22-46.
  • John Law (2013), 'Indistinct Perception', in Catelijne Coopmans, Janet Vertesi, Mike Lynch and Steve Woolgar (eds), New Representation in Scientific Practice, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, pp 337-342.
  • John Law (2011), Assembling the Baroque, Manchester and the Open University: CRESC Working Paper 109.
  • John Law (2011), 'Collateral Realities', in Fernando Dominguez Rubio and Patrick Baert (eds), The Politics of Knowledge, London: Routledge, pp 156-178.
  • John Law (2009), 'Seeing Like a Survey', Cultural Sociology, 3, 2, 239-256.
  • John Law (2007), 'Making a Mess with Method', in William Outhwaite and Stephen P. Turner (eds), The Sage Handbook of Social Science Methodology, Sage: Beverly Hills and London, pp 595-606.
  • John Law, (2007) 'Pinboards and Books: Learning, Materiality and Juxtaposition', in David Kritt and Lucien T. Winegar (eds.) Education and Technology: Critical Perspectives, Possible Futures, Lanham: Maryland, pp 125-150.
  • John Law (2004), 'And if the Global Were Small and Non-Coherent? Method, Complexity and the Baroque', Society and Space, 22, 13-26.

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Policy, framing and power

Between 2010 and 2014 I worked with CRESC's Manchester Capitalism team. The writing of this group attempts a critical engagement with inequalities and dysfunctions of contemporary forms of production and finance. One of the core concerns is with how political and policy options are framed to exclude alternatives in the current 'neo-liberal' British state. In addition I have worked on policy-related concerns using a more specifically actor-network approach with Vicky Singleton of Lancaster University. Once again policy is a context in which knowledge, power and framing powerfully interact to set limits the conditions of political and analytical possibility.

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Page last edited:
14 June 2019