Latour, Bruno 1947-

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Latour, Bruno 1947-


Born 1947, in Beaune, Burgundy, France; son of grape growers and winemakers. Education: Graduated from university in Dijon, France; University of Tours, Ph.D., 1975.


Social scientist, researcher, philosopher, anthropologist, curator, and educator. École Nationale Superieure des Mines, Center de Sociologie de l'Innovation, professor, 1982-2006; Sciences Po Paris, Centre de Sociologie des Organizations, professor, 2006—; University of Amsterdam, Spinoza Chair, 2005. Visiting professor, University of California San Diego, London School of Economics, Harvard University. Curator of exhibitions, including Iconoclash, ZKM Center, Karlsruhe, Germany, and Making Things Public: The Atmospheres of Decency. Military service: Served with the French military in Africa.


Bernal Prize, 4S Society, 1992; Prix Roberval du Livre et de la Communication Grand Public, 1992, for Aramis, ou l'amour des techniques. Recipient of honorary degrees from the University of Lund, Sweden, University of Lausanne, and the University of Montréal.


(With Steve Woolgar) Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, introduction by Jonas Salk, Sage Publications (Beverly Hills, CA), 1979, published with a new postscript and index, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1986.

Les microbes: Guerre et paix; suivi de, Irreductions, A.M. Métailié (Paris, France), 1984.

(With R. Arvanitis and M. Callon) Evaluation des politiques publiques de la recherche et de la technologie: Analyse Des Programmes Nationaux De La Recherche, Janvier 1986: Mission Scientifique et technique, Documentation Française (Paris, France), 1986.

Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1987.

The Pasteurization of France, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1988.

Nous n'avons jamais ete modernes: Essai d'anthropologie symetrique, Editions La Decouverte (Paris, France), 1991, translated by Catherine Porter as We Have Never Been Modern, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

(With Michel Serres) Eclaircissements: cinq entretiens avec Bruno Latour, F. Bourin (Paris, France), 1992, translated by Roxanne Lapidus as Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1995.

Aramis, ou, l'amour des techniques, La Decouverte (Paris, France), 1992, translated by Catherine Porter as Aramis; or, The Love of Technology, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

(With Pierre Lemonnier) De la prehistoire aux missiles balistiques: L'intelligence sociale des techniques, La Decouverte (Paris, France), 1994.

Petite reflexion sur le culte moderne des dieux faitiches, Synthelabo Groupe, 1996.

(With Emilie Hermant) Paris ville invisible, La Decouverte (Paris, France), 1998.

Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Politiques de la nature: Comment faire entrer les sciences en democratie, Decouverte (Paris, France), 1999, translated by Catherine Porter as Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

La fabrique du droit: Une ethnologie du conseil d'etat, La Decouverte (Paris, France), 2002.

(Editor, with Peter Weibel) Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art, translated by Charlotte Bigg, ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany), 2002.

War of the Worlds: What about Peace?, translated by Charlotte Bigg, edited by John Tresch, Prickly Paradigm Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Un monde pluriel mais commun, Aube (La Tour d'Aigues, France), 2003.

Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with Peter Weibel) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

(Editor, with Pasquale Gagliardi) Les atmospheres de la politique: Dialogue pour un monde commun, Empecheurs de Penser en Rond (Paris, France), 2006.

Latour's works have been translated into numerous foreign languages.


Bruno Latour is a prolific writer, social scientist, and educator. For almost twenty-five years, he was a professor at the Center de Sociologie de l'Innovation at the École Nationale Superieure des Mines. He is a pioneer in the field of Actor-Network Theory, a social theory he developed with colleagues in Paris. Latour is also a prominent figure in social study of science and technology, and in the diverse, eclectic, and the growing field of science studies, which concentrates on the activities within the sciences and seeks to understand how humans actually conduct scientific and technological pursuits and research. He looks for fundamental answers to questions of how scientific knowledge is created, shaped, and used. In his work, Latour applies social science procedures, ethnography, and philosophy to the study of natural science and technology and the involvement of humans in these fields. His "boundary-defying work has predictably provoked controversy, and he has become a favorite target of critics who seek to maintain borders between the disciplines," observed Henry Lowood on the Stanford Presidential Lectures Web site.

Many of Latour's works have been enthusiastically received, not only by reviewers but by fellow scientists. "Sometimes you read a book which offers so many solutions to so many problems that you immediately want to re-shape your research around it. Aramis; or, The Love of Technology is one of those books for us," commented Eric Laurier and Chris Philo in a review on the Eric Laurier Home Page. In the book, Latour "addresses in an almost populist manner numerous enduring questions about what social scientists can offer to engineers, planners, developers and users of technology. In particular, these are questions about how to understand nonhuman beings, most notably machines. They also include questions about both the character of research projects and the fabrication of artifacts, as well as questions about the textual representation of science and technology," Laurier and Philo stated.

Aramis was an innovative public transportation project in France. It was intended to "combine the best aspects of the train and the automobile. It was designed to be a point-to-point train system, with small cars that would pick you up at your home and take you directly to your destination with no stops in between," reported reviewer Eric Nehrlich on Despite almost twenty years of research, development, and experimentation, Aramis did not become a reality. Structuring the book like a mystery novel, Latour explores the history of Aramis, the nature of technology, the aspects of Aramis that went wrong, and the reasons why Aramis was "killed" before even being "born." His protagonists include a learned sociologist named Norbert, who has been contracted to find out who or what killed Aramis, and an engineering graduate student working with the sociologist. Even Aramis itself appears as a character, lamenting its fate and at times asking to be born. Norbert and his engineer apprentice delve deeply into the many connections and networks that collaborated to bring Aramis into existence, and which ultimately caused the project to be abandoned despite promising evidence that it would work. Latour describes how the project originated with the initiative of transportation engineers, shows how political and financial pressures imposed changes and alterations, and finally describes at least fifteen distinct concepts of Aramis that emerged, all competing for time, attention, and resources. "By framing the sociology of Aramis within a literary form, Latour has done more than create an entertaining ‘read’ about technological endeavors. He has compelled his readers to shift perspective constantly so that they gain an appreciation of the complexity of forces at play behind technological inventions," observed Norman Weinstein in MIT's Technology Review. Latour concludes that technology comes into genuine existence not as theory, elaborate calculations, or plans on paper, but when it transitions from plans and drawings to concrete, tangible reality. More importantly, remarked Jonathan Levine in the Journal of the American Planning Association, "technology comes into existence when it can hold together the contradictory technological and societal demands of its competing environments."

With We Have Never Been Modern, Latour seeks to reconsider the modern interpretation of the separation of nature and society, and show that this separation is in fact a myth. He "faults naturalists (including most scientists), deconstructivists and social scientists for failing to appreciate how nature, language, and society intermingle," observed Robert N. Proctor in the American Scientist. "Within these pages is evidence of a mind who is re-thinking our orthodox assumptions of modernity and all that goes along with that (and there is so much)," remarked Craft Culture reviewer Robert Cook. Throughout the book, "Latour's insights are abundant, from his advocacy of multinaturalism (versus multiculturalism) to his call for social theorists to recognize the historicity of objects," Proctor noted.

Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society encapsulates Latour's sociological and anthropological approach to the study of science, and describes his "attempt to discover exactly how science works," Nehrlich stated in another review. Latour's method involves going directly to the source and viewing scientists and researchers as they work. He is not much interested in what scientists have to say, or what philosophers and other have to say about science. Instead, he wants to observe scientists at work and analyze what they actually do on a daily basis to make science exist. Latour examines the technical paper, one of the primary artifacts in the life of a scientist. He "decomposes the dense tangle of references, citations, and figures and explains how this tangle is necessary as a defense against those who would attack the paper," Nehrlich stated. Latour also stresses acknowledgement of the many networks, associations, and connections between science and the outside world, and how these factors must interact before science can occur. Science, Latour observes, cannot happen in isolation, and therefore everyone in the chain of events is in their way "doing science," from the government official who approves funding to the makers of scientific instruments to the researcher toiling and experimenting in the lab. Science reviewer Henry Etzkowitz commented that "whether one accepts or rejects Latour's perspective, Science in Action is an important book in science and technology studies."

Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art is the catalogue of an exhibition curated by Latour and Peter Weibel in 2002 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The exhibition and catalogue explore iconoclasm—the deliberate destruction of images—and what the practice means in human culture and society. "Latour defines iconoclash as the tension produced by the conflict of the opposing principles of iconoclasm and iconophilia. In drawing attention to their contradiction and by arguing that each of these motives is contained and necessitated by its opposite, Latour hopes to confront the antagonisms that have traditionally fueled their conflict," commented Keith Moxey in the Art Bulletin. Latour looks at why destroying images is so important in political and religious contexts, and why the human urge to create images is a more powerful force than the desire to destroy them. He also considers subjects such as the meaning of images, the proliferation of images in human culture, the powerful emotional responses that images can trigger, and the importance of both destroying and creating images in human endeavor. "This behemoth of an exhibition catalogue is one of the most important books yet produced on the intersection of images as seen from the vantage points of art history, art criticism, religious studies, and science studies," concluded James Elkins in an Art Journal review.



American Scientist, July 1, 1995, Robert N. Proctor, review of We Have Never Been Modern, p. 384; March-April, 1997, Thomas J. Misa, review of Aramis; or, the Love of Technology, p. 196; January-February, 2005, Yaron Ezrahi, "Nature as Dogma," review of Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, p. 89.

Art Bulletin, September, 2003, Keith Moxey, review of Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art, p. 604.

Art Journal, fall, 2003, James Elkins, "Visual Vulture: Girst Fraft," review of Iconoclash, p. 104; spring, 2006, Christian S.G. Katti, "Mediating Political ‘Things,’ and the Forked Tongue of Modern Culture: A Conversation with Bruno Latour," p. 94.

Canadian Journal of History, August, 2001, Gordon McOuat, review of Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, p. 305.

Canadian Journal of Regional Science, spring, 2003, Trevor J. Barnes, "What's Wrong with American Regional Science? A View from Science Studies," p. 3.

Choice, May 1994, C. Koch, review of We Have Never Been Modern, p. 1456; November 1999, R.K. Harris, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 560; July-August, 2006, H. Oberdiek, review of Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, p. 2006.

Clio, winter, 1997, Donald Wesling, "Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, and the Edges of Historical Periods," p. 189.

Contemporary Sociology, September, 1999, Charles Tilly, review of Paris Ville Invisible, p. 572; September, 2000, Monica Casper, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 754; March, 2005, Kelly Moore, review of Politics of Nature, p. 168.

Economist, November 19, 1988, review of The Pasteurisation of France, p. 101.

French Politics, Culture, and Society, spring, 2001, Michel Devigne and David Muhlmann, review of Paris ville invisible, p. 138.

Isis, June, 2000, Steve Fuller, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 341.

Journal of the American Planning Association, winter, 1998, Jonathan Levine, review of Aramis; or, The Love of Technology, p. 102.

Journal of Sociology, September, 2002, Robert van Krieken, "The Paradox of the ‘Two Sociologies’: Hobbes, Latour, and the Constitution of Modern Social Theory," p. 255.

Journal of Social History, summer, 1990, Lindsay Wilson, review of The Pasteurization of France, 861.

Library Journal, March 1, 1980, Edith S. Crockett, review of Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, p. 575; February 1, 1989, Mary Hemmings, review of The Pasteurization of France, p. 80; November 1, 2002, Michael Dashkin, review of Iconoclash, p. 85.

MIT's Technology Review, August 1, 1997, Norman Weinstein, review of Aramis; or, The Love of Technology, p. 63.

New Scientist, August 21, 1999, Mike Holderness, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 48.

New Statesman, May 29, 1987, Hilary Rose, review of Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, p. 23; September 13, 1996, review of Aramis; or, The Love of Technology, p. 47.

Philosophy of Science, June, 1995, Barbara Tuchanska, review of We Have Never Been Modern, p. 350.

Political Theory, February, 2005, Michael J. Flower, review of Politics of Nature, p. 140.

Print, July-August, 2003, Michael Golec, review of Iconoclash, p. 34.

Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1999, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 61.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 1989, review of The Pasteurization of France, p. 27; August, 2004, review of Politics of Nature, p. 172.

Science, October 30, 1987, Henry Etzkowitz, review of Science in Action, p. 695; August 27, 2004, Naomi Oreskes, "A Call for a Collective," p. 1241.

Science Books & Films, May, 1987, review of Laboratory Life, p. 295; September, 1987, review of Science in Action, pp. 8-9.

Science, Technology, & Human Values, spring, 1995, Hans Harbers, review of We Have Never Been Modern, p. 270.

SciTech Book News, May, 1987, review of Science in Action, p. 5; December, 1988, review of The Pasteurization of France, p. 18; January, 1994, review of We Have Never Been Modern, p. 5; December, 1999, review of Pandora's Hope, p. 14.

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, March, 1991, Steve Sturdy, review of The Pasteurization of France, p. 163; December, 2005, Steven Yearley, "The Wrong End of Nature," review of The Politics of Nature, p. 827.

Theological Studies, September, 2003, Paul A. Soukup, review of Iconoclash, p. 650.

Times Higher Education Supplement, April 8, 2005, John Turney, "Power, but Not Just to People," review of Politics of Nature, p. 28.


Bruno Latour Home Page, (February 19, 2008).

Craft Culture, (November 29, 2007), Robert Cook, review of We Have Never Been Modern.

Eric Laurier Home Page, (February 19, 2008), Eric Laurier and Chris Philo, "X-Morphising," review of Aramis; or, The Love of Technology., (May 13, 2004), Eric Nehrlich, review of Aramis; or, the Love of Technology; (July 4, 2006), Eric Nehrlich, review of Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory; (May 8, 2005), Eric Nehrlich, review of Politics of Nature; (February 19, 2008), review of Science in Action.

Stanford Presidential Lectures Web site, (February 19, 2008), Henry Lowood and Sarah Sussman, biography of Bruno Latour.