Agency between humanism and posthumanism: Latour and his opponents

Andrew Kipnis


Two articles in the special section on knot-work in this journal (Hau 2014, volume 4, issue 3) take issue with the “posthumanism” of Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT). Arguing that Latour’s conception of agency undermines critical attitudes toward capitalism, they insist on an all-or-nothing, accept or reject attitude toward Latour’s work. In this article, I sketch an alternative vantage on questions of nonhuman agency and Latour’s oeuvre, which, though critical, is much less polemic. While proposing an intermediate stance for framing a theorization of agency, I conclude that it is not ANT’s theorization of agency that inhibits critical ethnographers of capitalism but rather habits in its application that derive, in part, from ANT’s insistence on painstaking ethnographic research.


Actor Network Theory, Latour, posthumanism, agency, ethnography

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau5.2.004