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The Ontological Turn

Taking Different Worlds Seriously

Andrew Pickering

Keywords: agency; decentered becoming; islands of stability; ontology; performance; science and technology; shamanism

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 nonscientific worlds (complexity theory, cybernetics, Taoism, Zen) that do not center themselves on islands of stability.

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