on a donkey's trail

I am on a student's journey. Years ago I traveled across the US, and over the last year I have traveled through Europe: Germany, Estonia, Portugal, Poland, Austria, and Spain. My body has moved through space. I am in a graduate program that takes me to these countries, working with faculty in different cities, and producing many architectural projects.

My mind too has gone on a kind of journey. This journey may have not been as visually observable or prescribed by the graduate program. However, my mind has taken highways, flights, trains, and paths. I have explored many directions. I have tested ideas. I have met new philosophies. 

Today I reflect on paths and journeys because I have recently finished Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. 
Over the last year my writing and theorization of architecture has become more and more politically radical. However, with Actor-Network Theory, I begin to see the possibility of an empirical sociological study that strives for objectivity through the relativity of one's work. Perhaps we should all be a bit more humble with our sociological statements and just document the world and social relations around us.

I expect to deploy insights from Actor-Network Theory in much of my upcoming work. Today I want to just present one line to you.

We should turn at a right angle, leave the freeways, and choose instead to walk through a tiny path not much wider than a donkey's trail. (171)

I guess we should set aside manifestos and radical passion for a minute and start working like ants to reassembling what we are really criticizing. With that excitement, I guess we could use a little focus – step by step – on this donkey's trail.


  1. I have previously been fascinated with Jacques Ranciere. And now with my interest in Bruno Latour, I am trying to develop some connections between their works. First, I found something called "The Autonomy Project" at the Dutch Art Institute that is making connections between Ranciere and Latour (http://theautonomyproject.ning.com/group/dutchartinstitute).

    Secondly, I highly recommend Latour's own website and his article called "Critical Distance or Critical Proximity," in which he raises debate through a dialog on whether one should behave as an assembling scientist or as a politically critical academic (http://www.bruno-latour.fr/poparticles/poparticle/P-113-HARAWAY.pdf).

    1. I was reading you blog from the first post these two days. and this sudden shift is really radical... however, not unexpected. people interested in critical theory tend to find out about ANT sooner or later,and then their radical projects just melt into the air. this is sad, so now what about the question about the role of an architect in the neoliberal city?

    2. Thanks for your comments. Well, I have been in some way sliding between worlds. Starting as an activist, architecture student, ethnographer of architecture, community organizer, now architect and ethnographic filmmaker again. Things come and go. Depending on the day, I may be more a cautious theorist or an angry activist. Today: was I in the library or in the streets? Was I surrounded with my books, patience, and comfort, or was I pressured by my friends or neighbors that are being displaced from the city center, did my bank account run out of money?

      I really appreciate ANT and especially the ethnographic tradition and empirical assemblage, collecting statements, trying to position the humans and non humans, etc. Yet, similarly, I am not entirely sure that the ANT applied to urbanization at large has equipped itself with a broader intellectual categories that can gauge, measure, and interpret the impact of international finance. So, recently I am trying to interpret ANT in combination with the Lefebvrian influenced, critical urban theory tradition. I look forward to reading Andrew Barry's work, haven't got there yet...

      Thanks for your intriguing question. How do you balance between critical proximity and critical distance? http://www.bruno-latour.fr/node/248


    3. My experience has not been that critical theory radicalized my theory or activism. But "critical proximity" – conducting interviews, slowing down, tracing those myopic details that Latour talks about – has led to me a place where I want to create the "assemblage of assemblies," and "draw on the potentials lying in wait."(Latour, 246) ... then, there can be "another disruption of roles between science and politics should be attempted (Latour, 251). ... which I find, interesting, toward the end of Latour's book, where the meaning of all those myopic details are also quite radical.

    4. ok, so I'm waiting something new to show up on your blog. reading it was really useful, I came upon many interesting scholars, and interesting visual material. I'm trying to became an urban sociologist and sociologist of architecture. I'm finding some good architectural theories, but the real life in my city is just expansion of gated communities or some housing estates that resembles some good old functionalist urbanism.

    5. Sorry for the late reply. I am having trouble finding the courage to share things on the blog lately. Anyway, if you're beginning as an urban/architectural sociologist, I would for sure read the classic Robert Gutman, but then the renegade Garry Stevens' "The Favored Circle." Also, as mentioned in the comment below, Albena Yaneva has interesting ethnographic work on OMA, and Paul Jones has a new book "The Sociology of Architecture: Constructing Identities."
      What city are you in?

    6. about the blog: why is it so, why don't you have courage? because your not sure about the right ideas?

      as for Stevens and Gutman, I found out about them earlier. I'm waiting now for the books to travel fromthe good old America. I'm from Vilnius. And thank for other suggestions. The most important idea for me was the non-political city and architecture. I finally got the concept to explain my supervisor, what I'm talking about. helped me back my insights with some names :)

      thanks and keep the good work

  2. Relating specifically to architecture, Bruno Latour has co-written an article with Albena Yaneva called "Give me a gun and I will make all building's move."


    or Albena Yaneva's book: Made by the Office of Metropolitan Architecture: An Ethnography on Design.