Bruno Latour (1947-2022)

“In politics as in science, when someone is said to ‘master’ a question or to ‘dominate’ a subject, you should normally look for the flat surface that enables mastery (a map, a list, a file, a census, the wall of a gallery, a card-index, a repertory) and you will find it.”

“In our cultures ‘paper shuffling’ is the source of an essential power, that constantly escapes attention since its materiality is ignored.”

“Papers and signs are incredibly weak and fragile. This is why explaining anything with them seemed so ludicrous at first. La Pérouse’s map is not the Pacific, anymore than Watt’s drawings and patents are the engines, or the bankers’ exchange rates are the economies, or the theorems of topology are ‘the real world.’ This is precisely the paradox. By working on papers alone, on fragile inscriptions that are immensely less than the things from which they are extracted, it is still possible to dominate all things and all people.”

Bruno Latour’s “Drawing Things Together” was central in developing my thinking about the complex relationship between poetry and documentation, which led to my book Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry (U of Iowa P, 2020).

~ by Michael Leong on October 9, 2022.

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