Can ANT be a form of activism?



In most of ANT and STS literature the role of the analyst is left untouched: most works present themselves as a study of activism, not studies in and through activism. In contrast, we want to ask: how does the activation, criticism, contestation and dispute of techno-scientific knowledges and arrangements ‘activate’ our own research practices or us as researchers? In this chapter we search to think with a concrete set of activist practices: the En torno a la silla collective, and in particular the research engagement afforded by its intense social and material explorations in the environmental intervention and remaking of wheelchair users and their surroundings. We describe the impact it had on us as researchers: or, to be more specific, on our ways of engaging ethnographically, and to consider how this might inspire the ‘experimentally collaborative’ or ‘activated’ ways in which ANT researchers might engage in other activist ecologies. We also characterize this particular form of research activism as ‘joint problem-making’: comprising a series of social and material interventions to problematize, transform, and account for the worlds being produced together with others. But this is far from the only possibility in which ANT’s research modes could be experimented upon, if not repurposed, when engaging in activist practices. In what ways could ANT be reshaped when engaging in other activist settings? Or, rather, can ANT be a form of activism? Our hope is that in exploring our engagements with activism ANT could become a more open and nonconformist research space: an ‘activated’ practice, problematizing in newer ways the relationship between description and action, exploring the manifold ways of being an analyst or a researcher that might be available when engaging in these settings.

Criado, T. & Rodríguez-Giralt, I. (2019). Can ANT be a form of activism? In: Anders Blok; Ignacio Farias and Celia Roberts, eds. The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory. London: Routledge. pp. 360-368. ISBN: 9781138084728

Tomás Sánchez-Criado (Humboldt University)