Latour and Lefebvre

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While this weeks readings of Latour were not quite up to the standards of last weeks – I still found them largely engaging and thought provoking. In another one of my classes we are reading Lefebvre’s Production of Space and I found many interesting parallels between Lefebvre and Latour. In particular, Lefebvre was interested in how social scientist’s were quick to move away from the material and into the idea of meaning and relationships was a mistake in that is made it so that they were engaged with a purely social or mental realm that had very little groundings or underpinnings in actual practice.

Lefebvre writes “where does a relationship reside when it is not being actualized in a highly determined situation? How does it await its moment? In what state does it exist until an action of some kind makes it effective?”p401. He goes on to write “Granted, then, that a social relationship cannot exist without an underpinning, we still have to ask how that underpinning ‘functions’”p401. Lefebvre argues that an underpinning for relationships must exist and that this underpinning must be material as it is only the material that predates the conceptual, social, and lived experience.

Latour seems to be working on much the same project when he asks how social relations – which are inherently weak – can possibly be sustained he to looks towards a world of human/nonhuman collectivities as a material realm in which such a relationship is potentially strengthened, given spatial and temporal depth, and is visible through traces and marks. While Latour is given an enormous amount of credit for his work in developing ANT – I found it striking that he is sharing in a project that Lefebvre anticipated 30 years previously.

That being said, Latour and Lefebvre are remarkably different in how they concluded their projects with Lefebvre situating the answer in the production of space, especially at the level of the body, a reduction that Latour would certainly take issue with.

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