never forgetting about microscopes


i owe sev a blog comment on annemarie mol’s book, now much-read among medical anthropologists and science studies folks, The Body Multiple (duke university press, durham, NC, 2002; linked here to google books).   it’s a work that reverberates strongly with the readings we have been dealing with — particularly gell, and again as we confront ingold. mol’s book demonstrates how one might go about undertaking an ontological ethnographic work (in her words, a “praxiography”), and so is particularly helpful in addressing the question “how?” as we go about considering what it means to perform an object study.

in a previous class, i rather clumsily sought to make an argument for ontologies as not simply differential ways of experiencing the world, but distinct realities that nonetheless  reside uneasily, even contradictorily, alongside the other.  in anthropology, we speak a lot about the “every day” in practice theory.  mol takes this notion and makes a compelling case for seeing the world as one of “enactments”, where the question of “who” does the “doing” is far from clear:

“My ethnographic strategy hinges on the art of never forgetting about microscopes. Of persistently attending to their relevance and always including them in stories about physicalities. It is with this strategy that disease is turned into something ethnographers may talk about… The “disease” that ethnographers talk about is never alone. It does not stand by itself. It depends on everything and everyone that is active while it is being practiced. This disease is being done.” (31-32)


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