Přísliby a úskalí symetrie: sociální vědy v zemi za zrcadlem

Luděk Brož, Tereza Stöckelová


Given the prominence of Bruno Latour’s work in contemporary social scientific thinking we observe that his call for “symmetrical anthropology” (1991) generated comparatively little following. The aim of this article (and the special issue as a whole) is to re-introduce “symmetrical anthropology” in the Czech social scientific milieu as a research programme worth pursuing. Contrary to accusations of Latour’s work, and Actor-Network Theory more generally, of political naïveté, if not conservatism, we understand symmetrical anthropology as a challenging incentive to study our world of multiple asymmetries: social, economic, geopolitical, biological, communicational. The challenge is simultaneously analytical, conceptual and methodological just as it is political and ethical. We start our proposal by introducing the genealogy of the notion of symmetry in social sciences from science studies to symmetrical archaeology. Then we map out what we see as conceptually kin current trends in social sciences such as the advent of material culture studies, recent flourishing of multi-species ethnography or the so-called “ontological turn”. In this context we explain why we find comfort in the comparatively humble and seemingly outdated label of “symmetrical anthropology”. In the next section, we open the question of research ethics in methodologically symmetrical approaches, drawing on works that off er an alternative to the Kantian paradigm of ethics. Finally, we discuss whether symmetrical approaches form an apolitical body of scholarship, as many critiques argue, or rather open up new horizons of social engagement and critique in social sciences. We round up our argument by introducing empirical symmetrical studies collected in this special issue. Keywords: symmetrical anthropology, symmetrical archaeology, Bruno Latour, non-human research ethics, Actor-Network Theory.

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