The Ontological Turn

Taking Different Worlds Seriously

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 University of Exeter a.r.pickering@exeter.ac.uk
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Abstract

In this article I discuss different scientific and non-modern worlds as they appear in a performative (rather than representational) idiom, situating my analysis in relation to the recent ontological turns in science and technology studies (STS) and anthropology. I propose an ontology of decentered becoming that can help us take seriously the multiplicity of ‘found’ ontologies. A key concept is that of ‘islands of stability’, which enables a comparative transition between the worlds of science and shamanism. This offers an opportunity to reflect back critically and politically on modernity, while highlighting the problems of anthropological translation that surface in a performative apprehension of non-modern worlds. In conclusion, I touch on scientific and non-scientific worlds (complexity theory, cybernetics, Taoism, Zen) that do not center themselves on islands of stability.

Contributor Notes

Andrew Pickering is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Exeter. His field is science and technology studies, and his current research focuses on art, agency, the environment, and traditional Chinese philosophy. His publications include The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010), The Mangle in Practice: Science, Society, and Becoming (2008), The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science (1995), Science as Practice and Culture (1992), and Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics (1984).

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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