Professor Bruno Latour is one of the most respected scholars in the social sciences today. In this first part, Latour and David Robertson discuss the broader relevance of his work for Religious Studies. They discuss actor-network theory, of which Latour was instrumental in developing. This includes some discussion of phenomenology and religious “essence”.

Listen Now

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

About this episode

Professor Bruno Latour is one of the most respected scholars in the social sciences today. This February, he came to Edinburgh University to deliver the annual Gifford Lecture Series, established in 1888 to ‘promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term” – an opportunity we felt we could not miss. Previous presenters have included such luminaries as William James, Wilfred Cantwell Smith and E. B. Tylor. So how does an anthropologist of science come to be giving the Gifford Lectures?

In this first part, Latour and David Robertson discuss the broader relevance of his work for Religious Studies. They discuss actor-network theory, of which Latour was instrumental in developing. This includes some discussion of phenomenology and religious “essence”. Discussion then moves to Latour’s forthcoming work, Rejoicing: or the Torments of Religious Speech (Polity 2013), a more personal work which concerns not “religion” or “religions” but the adverb “religiously”. What does it mean to talk religiously, and is it still even possible? It is at the same time a fierce attack on religions, but a passionate defence of religious speech.

You can also download this interview, and subscribe to receive our weekly podcast, on iTunes. And if you enjoyed it, please take a moment to rate us, or use our Amazon.co.uk link to support us when buying your important books etc.

Videos and abstracts of Bruno Latour’s complete Gifford Lecture series can be viewed on the University of Edinburgh’s page.

Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po Paris and has also been Professor at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines in Paris and visiting Professor at University of California (San Diego), at the London School of Economics and Harvard University. After field studies in Africa and California he specialized in the analysis of scientists and engineers at work. In addition to work in philosophy, history, sociology and anthropology of science, he has collaborated on many studies in science policy and research management, producing significant works such as Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts and most recently Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies). He has also made a valuable contribution to the political philosophy of the environment with the book Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, a theme which the Gifford Lectures continue.

 Fund the RSP while you shop! Use an Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, or Amazon.com affiliate link whenever you make a purchase. There’s no additional cost to you, but every bit helps us stay on the air! 

We need your support!

Want to support us directly? Become a monthly Patron or consider giving us a one-time donation through PayPal

Related Resources

Religion, Stigmata, and History

Response

"As a particularly dramatic account in the early history of signs and sanctity, [the Chiara] episode highlighted the importance of context," writes Cynthia Klestinec in response to Sidney Castillo's interview with Gabor Klaniczay. There we see "how the local context of Chiara served to establish claims to sanctity in the early 1300s and how the more extensive context of the Counter Reformation generated an overlapping but ultimately different set of debates about those same signs in the 1650s."
Presidentialism, or “Who’s Your Daddy?” Discourse! October 2020

Podcast

In this October 2020 episode of Discourse!, Andie Alexander, Hina Muneeruddin, and Leslie Dorrough Smith explore ideas of infantile citizens, political debates as spectacle, rhetoric as bumper bowling, fist-fighting viruses, and fake news in the discourses surrounding the US Presidential election.
Understanding Evangelical Opposition to Climate Action

Podcast

Evangelicals don't oppose climate activism for the reasons you think. Listen to expert Robin Veldman and find out why "embattlement" matters more than eschatology when it comes to rejecting climate science.

Responses to this episode

“I Made It All Up and It Came True Anyway”

I asked him about this quote from J. Z. Smith; he replied that he was correct, religion is a constructed category, but that didn’t mean it wasn't also real. So Latour takes the constructionist agenda of the post-structuralists a step further. Our categories are indeed invented, but not “merely” so, for they are also real. They become real through our wielding of them. The story goes that somewhere on the West Coast of Africa, sometime in the 17th Century,

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Young People and Religion in a Global Perspective

Podcast

Today, Chris is joined by Marcus Moberg and Sofia Sjö to discuss the fascinating “Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective” project, which has been addressing this dearth on a massive scale. In this interview, we discuss the logistics and some of the emerging findings of a project which has involved utilizing a number of innovative research methods – including the Faith Q-Sort
Sufism

Podcast

In this interview, Milad Milani discusses the basic orientation and history of Sufi thought. He also speaks about the diverse national variations of Sufism, particularly with respect to Iranian (or “Persianate”) Sufism. The interview concludes with a few critical remarks on the questionable appropriation of Sufism in contemporary Western discourses on religion.
The ‘Persistence’ and ‘Problem’ of Religion

Podcast

In this interview, Professor Pratt outlines a model for understanding the nature of the ‘persistence’ of religion, paying particular attention to three interwoven dimensions: narrative, ethical, and metaphysical. He also discusses, in the light of this model, the contemporary ‘problem’ of exclusivism and extremism which arguably arise from the lack of an adequate conceptual mechanism for coping with religious diversity.
Five Lectures on Atheism, Nonreligion, and Secularity, from the NSRN

Podcast

In partnership with the NSRN (Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network), it is our pleasure to bring you the audio recordings of five very important lectures from Grace Davie, Humeira Iqtidar, Callum Brown, Monika Wohlrab-Sahr, and Jonathan Lanman.
The Critical Study of Religion

Podcast

Professor Bruce Lincoln from the University of Chicago discusses a variety of topics including werewolves, critical theory, pedagogy, and self-imposed estrangement from the academic study of religion. In this interview, Professor Bruce Lincoln from the University of Chicago Divinity School discusses a variety of topics including werewolves, critical theory,
Situational Belief

Podcast

“Belief” is a critical category in the study of religion. Indeed, for some scholars, it is the very essence of religion; as Clifford Geertz wrote, “To know, one must first believe.” Others, however, see the emphasis on belief as part of the Protestant bias in the development of the discipline, and have proposed various ways of avoiding talking about it at all. In this interview, ...

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The views expressed in podcasts, features and responses are the views of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Religious Studies Project or our sponsors. The Religious Studies Project is produced by the Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO), a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number SC047750).