The artist Steve Lambert had a great tweet once that was something like “every time you send me a .doc file, my opinion of you decreases.” I have similar feelings about Bruno Latour. Whenever people cite Latour, my opinion of them decreases.
Nevertheless Latour has been, it will be reluctantly admitted, tremendously successful as a researcher, thinker, and author. And so the citations proliferate. Yet I was still surprised to see the recent profile of Latour published in the New York Times, whose reporting on intellectual matters is not so much remedial as nonexistent. As a rule, the Times will cover scholars when they kiss their students, when they publish hoaxes, and when they die. Itemized in reverse order of preference, these options are somewhat limited. Yet in deviating from convention, reporter Ava Kofman turned in a fine story on an unappealing subject -- more on that in a moment. One can only hope that the Times will increase this sort of reporting and, next time if not also for all time, shift away from the kind of mainstream male social scientists who tend to garner the most column inches. For instance I couldn't help but notice that Anne Fausto-Sterling, one of Latour's peers in the discipline of science and technology studies (STS), published a 900-word opinion piece in the paper at the very moment when Latour was the subject of a 6400-word feature in the glossy Times magazine. What if those numbers were reversed? Continue reading