Endre’s first post

Once again, many thanks to the Installing (Social) Order team for inviting me as a guest blogger! Let me start this first post with a short introduction that hopefully helps to situate my research within science and technology studies.

Sociologists and anthropologists of science know a lot about laboratories, innovation centres, museums, design studios, hospitals, and the politics of related material practices, but curiously there’s hardly any STS work that focuses on explicitly political institutions. Perhaps the most notable exception is the thousand page long Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy catalogue, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. As many readers of this blog probably know, the catalogue was published in 2005 as a companion to a fascinating exhibition, held at the Karlsruhe-based Center for Art and Media (http://on1.zkm.de/zkm/stories/storyReader$4581#), but I stumbled upon it only a year later, in the library of Lancaster University. It was the very beginning of my PhD at the Department of Sociology (http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/sociology/), and I was looking for studies on political technologies when I discovered the massive blue book on one of the shelves. My idea at the time was to compare three or four distinct political configurations or arrangements (street demonstrations, public debates, election campaigns), but flipping through the essays in the catalogue made me realise that it would be much more interesting to focus on the entity that in one way or another coordinates these arrangements: the parliament. (The term ‘arrangement’ comes from Andrew Barry’s Political Machines.)

I can’t say I immediately had a clear idea about what an STS-informed research of a parliament would look like, but I knew where it could take place. As someone who grew up in Hungary, I remembered that the parliament building in the centre of Budapest was once the largest (and arguably the most impressive) of its kind – quite bizarre for a country that is not only small, but in most political scientists’ view also counts as a ‘new democracy’. Either they are right, I thought, and then props really don’t matter in politics, or the idea that liberal democracy in Central and Eastern Europe fell from the sky in 1989 – like in Peter Sloterdijk’s thought experiment (http://www.g-i-o.com/pp1.htm) – needs to be rethought.

So there was a problem, there was a site, and thanks to a friend from undergraduate times, who started his second term as a Member of Parliament in 2006, soon there was access. The fourth component, funding, came from The Leverhulme Trust, which generously supported a larger research project entitled Relocating Innovation: Places and Material Practices of Future Making (http://www.sand14.com/relocatinginnovation/). I’ll write more about my MP friend and the research project that involved Lucy Suchman, Laura Watts and myself in subsequent posts. For now, let me just say that my fieldwork began in Budapest in 2008 and – somewhat surprisingly – ended in Berlin in 2011. The main idea was very simple: instead of treating the Hungarian Parliament as a local manifestation of liberal democracy as a universal concept, I wanted to understand what liberal democracy was by focusing on the Hungarian Parliament. In practice, however, the research very quickly became very complex. As a sociologist, all of a sudden I had to find ways of relating to architecture, Hungarian history, constitutional theory, political science and political philosophy, while constantly keeping an eye on STS. It was overwhelming.

Between 2008 and 2011 I spent four extended periods doing ethnographic and historical research in and around the Hungarian parliament building, and a longer period as a visiting researcher at the Institute for European Ethnology at Humboldt University (http://www.euroethno.hu-berlin.de/), trying to make sense of my empirical material. Finally, less than two weeks ago I submitted my dissertation, which is entitled Parliament Politics: A material semiotic analysis of liberal democracy. My plan in this space within the Installing (Social) Order blog is not to provide a summary of the dissertation, but to offer some sort of a problem map. First I will focus on architecture, and discuss what we can learn about liberal democracy if we concentrate on the construction of the Hungarian parliament building in the end of the 19th century. Then I will briefly recount what happened to this building (and the political reality it was supposed to hold together) in the 20th century in order to highlight some tensions related to the definition of a political community. I’ll then concentrate on the parliament’s role in the current political regime – the Republic of Hungary – and examine some of the most important aspects of the legislative process. After this, I’ll (re-)introduce my MP friend and summarise what I’ve learned from him about political representation, which sometimes takes place in the parliament building, but some other times in TV studios, party congresses, street demonstrations, and various other places. All of my stories will be full of political objects, but the picture wouldn’t be complete if I remained silent about political subjects. This part will be a little complicated, because I don’t think STS is very well equipped to deal with questions related to citizenship, but I might be wrong. In the end, I’ll say something about the implications of my research, and the Relocating Innovation project in general, which will probably coincide with a workshop I’m going to attend at MEDEA at Malmö University in the end of October (related to this event: http://medea.mah.se/2011/09/medea-talks-presents-lucy-suchman/).

I hope these posts will be useful and entertaining, and generate some interesting discussions! If you have any questions and/or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to post them as comments or send them in an email to edanyi -at- gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “Endre’s first post

  1. są wrażliwe pokazać sumę kwestii ślubnych, wraz z dyskretnymi, jeżeli obejmują że powołanie się na nie da im pewną pociecha.
    Istnieją intensywnie kalkulatorskie dodatkowo jeśliby owszem więc umiem zauroczyć – bezlitosne.
    W 4 wyjątkach na 5 eksplicytnie ciekawe przyzwyczajeniem postanowień do skupionego dorobku.


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  4. Peter, thanks for the background on these terms. I checked out Latour again today myself, and found this: ???object out there and, in another sense, an issue very much in there, at any rate, a gathering??? (Latour 2004: 233, not WHNBM)..Latour, Bruno (2004) ???Why has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern???, Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter): 225-248.


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