Tuesday 9 February 2010

Avatar and Bruno Latour

From Munich, Germany

Bruno Latour, the French sociologist of science, was in Munich to receive a cultural prize at Ludwig-Maximilians-University.  At the ceremony yesterday evening, he presented a talk on his efforts to create a ‘compositionist manifesto’, described as a search to construct a common world from “utterly heterogeneous parts that will never make a whole, but at best a fragile, revisable and diverse composition.”  But I shouldn’t give the idea that it was completely heady stuff.  Latour playfully wove in references to the popular film Avatar, noting the thinly veiled reference to Gaia in Eywa (the deity and life force of the planet Pandora) and suggesting that Jake Sully gives “a whole new dimension to what it means to ‘go native’”.  We continued this morning with a lively three-hour informal seminar, during which Latour humbly and warmly shared his ideas with a public composed mostly of doctoral students. References to environmental issues and the recent debacle of the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen kept the discussion relevant to the themes we are exploring at the Rachel Carson Center.  The compositionist approach, as he described it, reminded me of current narratives of resilience, a topic that merits attention by sociologists of science.

1 comment:

  1. For more on the affective and religious dimensions of Avatar, and how they exemplify what Bron Taylor calls 'Dark Green Religion' in a recent book, see http://www.brontaylor.com/environmental_books/dgr/avatar_nature_religion.html