A Question of (STS) Style?

Many thanks to Fabio Rojas (whom I met for a sub for lunch in Bloomington back in 2005, but I don´t think he will remember) for letting the readers of orgtheory know about our little blog. We just started, they have tons of experience, so that is great!

The comment to that post made me think about our short discussion about STS, Latour and the uneasyness they seem to induce. Here is why: I always thought that this is due to a double characteristics of ANT (or STS in general) texts. They seem to fall in two basic categories: great conceptual ideas in an insider jargon on the one hand, great case studies that do not really care about theoretical purity on the other (I overemphasize, of course). You have to read both types to appreciate that.

But the comment made me think: wait, it is also a question of style? I could not believe that. But then I tested, the old normal science way: I fired up my reference manager, did a search on “(” in the title field and there it is. Really, nearly only STS papers use the parenthesis type title. These were the only non-STS papers I found:


Dandaneau, S. P. & Dodsworth, R. M. (2006). Being (george ritzer) and nothingness: An interview. The American Sociologist, 37(4), 84-96.

Hughey, M. (2008). Virtual (br)others and (re)sisters: Authentic black fraternity and sorority identity on the internet. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 37(5), 528-560.

Jessop, B. (2001). Bringing the state back in (yet again): Reviews, revisions, rejections, and redirections. International Review of Sociology, 11(2), 149-173

Why do we do that? We did it also, yes. Maybe for every single paranthesis we use, we have good reasons. The title of this blog for example is chosen due to the fact that we are not careless about terms, but in general quite carefull. What other sociological term could be more problematic that “social”? And once we start to ask how order in contemporary societies (again, a concept to be careful with) gets installed rather than “just” institutionalized, shouldn´t we be especially careful about calling it social order, then? But in sum it is true: STS texts are written in a certain style, a jargon maybe. Should we try to avoid it? 


13 thoughts on “A Question of (STS) Style?

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  8. @Adam:.Thanks for looking into that. It confirms what I have been thinking for a while too. .It is an interesting hypothesis to suggest that Callon, in elevating the seeming value of STS outside of STS (most notably in the performativity of economics debates, along with MacKenzie) has inadvertently doomed us all to a fate of disciplinary mis-perception..To be fair to our friends in organizational studies, when new institutionalism entered organizational analysis (and I’m thinking of the big orange book here), I think there was a time that they too suffered this type of mis-perception, only org theory meant new institutional theory (or neo-I). .Maybe they’re just projecting their experience onto ours…


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