Words of Stone, prophetic materials and the politics of where

The following article is a reflection on ethnographic theory that is ‘inspired’ by three developments set forth in the field of Science and Technology Studies and particularly by Actor-Network Theory, namely, a) the decentering of humans and the focus on the capacity of things to do politics, b) the consideration of ethnographic objects as multiple objects and c) the destabilization of the division between theoretical and empirical domains. The ethnographic object that structures this theoretical reflection is a stone from southern Chile that a) is capable of doing politics, b) evokes multiplicities and c) destabilizes the distinction between the theoretical and the empirical. In the attempt to ethnographically describe this stone, this article establishes the importance of developing an ethnographic sensitivity that is not limited to a replication of the analytical categories from the sources of ‘conceptual inspiration’, but rather, and above all, develops what I will heuristically call ‘processes of ethnographic exhalation’. Emphasizing the process of ‘exhaling’ an ethnographic theory as a process that regenerates the ‘inspired’ conceptual sources, I would like to complement the ontological interest of Actor-Network Theory in the ‘politics of what’ through the development of the ‘politics of where’. This politics is established through forces and folded temporalities in the ethnographic field and its ontological tensions, through the unique characteristics of the languages of the actors studied, and through the conceptual repertoires of the disciplines mobilized in ethnographic writing.

 

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