This week I read the Yates essay before reading the Latour introduction, and I am glad I did because a lot of the difficulty that Latour warns us about is difficulty that I experienced while trying to read the Yates essay. I could definitely relate to the immediate satisfaction that Latour talks about with how sociologists are able to “jump straight ahead to connect vast arrays of life and history, to mobilize gigantic forces, to detect dramatic patterns emerging out of confusing interactions, to see everywhere in the cases at hand yet more examples of well-known types, to reveal behind the scenes some dark powers pulling the strings” (Latour 22). That is exactly what I was trying to do with those oranges. I read the first couple of pages of the Yates essay a few times searching for some clue I missed about these oranges that I did not receive until the end of the essay—what a relief that was. Yates did a good job of “let[ting] the actors deploy the full range of controversies in which they are immersed” (Latour 23) before saying exactly why the oranges were so important at the end. It felt like a test of sorts.
I could also relate to the cartographer that Latour writes about (23-4) who struggles in figuring out how she will include all of these different aspects of reports while still making sense. I feel that way when writing a term paper, and find that if I attempt to stick to the conventional paper writing method—just like the cartographer will struggle with conventional cartography—of outline first, then introduction, body, and conclusion I have a really difficult time. Why? Because I am trying to force those abstractions into concepts without letting them fully form yet which happens in the process of actually writing the essay. How can I introduce what I have not even started writing yet?
One last thing: Near the end of the introduction Latour writes, “Be prepared to cast off agency, structure, psyche, time, and space along with every other philosophical and anthropological category, no matter how deeply rooted in common sense they may appear to be” (24-5). That reminded me of when Jane Bennett writes that “[f]or this task, demystification, that most popular of practices in critical theory, should be used with caution and sparingly, because demystification presumes that at the heart of any event or process lies a human agency that has illicitly been projected into things. This hermeneutics of suspicion calls for theorists to be on high alert for signs of the secret truth (a human will to power) below the false appearance of nonhuman agency” (xiv).