Bruno Latour In Memoriam

12 Oct, 2022

Bruno Latour In Memoriam

Image caption: Video still of Bruno Latour lecturing at UC Berkeley, Oct. 17, 2005

Seventeen years ago, the eminent Philosopher and Anthropologist Bruno Latour gave a remarkable lecture at the UC Berkeley Art Technology and Culture lecture series.

On 10/09/22 at age 75, Bruno Latour passed away. In his Berkeley lecture, which is archived here, Latour discussed his exhibit "Making Things Public".

He applied one of his brilliant intellectual moves, the reversal, to the question of science and politics. He asked: "Is it possible to bring truth and objectivity to politics?" which he saw as a precondition for what he called a Cosmopolitic, a politics of the Cosmos. Such a politic would need to satisfy the following questions: "Are the people there assembled representative of their constituency?" and "Are the things which are talked about represented accurately?" He articulated these questions in 2005, anticipating the representation issues with both voters and science we face ever since with Climate Change and COVID. Or, in Latour's words: "How do you bring the thing you talk about inside the place where you talk about it?" (transcript)

An exceptionally dynamic and capacious thinker, Latour was able to develop profound concepts from simple observations he made as an anthropologist. His ways of developing these concepts always centered human experience through poetic flow and deep humor. He leaves a legacy of fighting for humanistic ideals borne from careful observation and precise use of language. In one of his last texts, he wrote:

"The oceans are a key topic of what I call the New Climatic Regime. They are key to the Earth system and therefore an integral part of our conditions of existence. (...) One could argue that by describing them as part of our environment, the very notion of “environment” implies a form of passivity, of set objects near one another. But the oceans are far from passive. They are one of the main actors of the active system which allows life to prosper on Earth.”

—Bruno Latour, ​​Foreword To “Prospecting Ocean” by Stefanie Hessler with visual essay by Armin Linke

This kind of interdisciplinary discourse has always been the focus of the ATC lecture series, which provided the intellectual and social basis for the Berkeley Center for New Media. BCNM is grateful for the profound source of inspiration Bruno Latour leaves behind with his written work, and will always miss the bright, caring and transformative ideas that flowed from his mind.

— Greg Niemeyer and Ken Goldberg