A thought for Endre, courtesy of Tom Gieryn

I’ve been thinking about the link between “what buildings do” and our current exploration of the “multiplicity” of things. One of the concerns Endre raised was the idea that saying that Parliments “do” anything is hard to say with a straight face in STS because there are so few Parliments that what happens in one may not be altogether instructive about the goings-on in another. I agree with this point or insight, mainly, because the space is at once two things from the perspective of the analyst. That is the focus of this blog post: the position or perspective of the analyst must come into play to fully appreciate your point.

The fodder from which I make this claim is Tom Gieryn’s work on Chicago as a “truth spot” wherein he claims that the Chicago School of sociology and urban studies drew credibility for their claims by demanding that the city was at once two cities; an ethnographic field-site untouched and unknown wherein the analysts had to take their analyses “to the streets” AND a laboratory setting controlled and thus knowable as any city wherein the analysts were required to maintain an objective distance as they solved, one by one, the problems of urban life. Check out Tom’s paper here.

Parliment, thus, is both a place of detailed ethnographic work where you take your analysis to the fine-grained detail associated with urban studies, and credibility stems from your closeness to the action (both now, but also historically, with enough original documentation).

Parliment, however, is also another place of distanced analysis — and this is a slight point of departure for your work, because you are not capable of tinkering with the inner workings of Parliment — so instead of the analyst being the one who claims the Hungarian Parliment is like any Parliment (i.e., a lab-like setting), the claims to gather are ones from the inside, from its members (the members of Parliment) about the ability to see “this” Parliment like or unlike others. This is a twist on the credibility statements or strategies Tom describes.

The ground gained, thus, is in seeing credibility of claims or their legitimacy from a different register. Now that we focus on the members of Parliment (but we could go way beyond that), then we can see this shifting register (i.e., a continuum of sorts) between (a) the credibility of claims based on the locality or uniqueness of Hungarian Parliment and associated practices, and (b) the credibility of claims based on the non-local or generic qualities of, lets say, all Parliments. The notion of “claim” is also incredibly flexible, such that you could capture “political” claims, “architectural” claims, etc. This draws, of course, liberally from anthemista’s ideas/comments from the last post. I just find that multiplicity, for it to really capture something, needs an anchor beit credibility, in this case, or the assumption that the body is really one thing seen many ways, in Mol’s case, or some other place to pindown from what angle we assume there is one in many (or a oneness to many).

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About Nicholas

Associate Professor of Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at Penn State, Nicholas mainly writes about understanding the scientific study of states and, thus, it is namely about state theory. Given his training in sociology and STS, he takes a decidedly STS-oriented approach to state theory and issues of governance.

One thought on “A thought for Endre, courtesy of Tom Gieryn

  1. I guess I was thinking more of the Parliament as a field-sit for you, and a laboratory for the politcians (a political laboratory). Certainly, the Parliament is no laboratory for the likes of us; but it is a place where elements can be extracted "from nature" and be examined for strength during testing on the floor of Parliament. But, then again, I am no specialist on these matters.

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