"Material Powers" (?): ANT Blasphemy or Fresh Direction?


In 2010, Tony Bennett and Patrick Joyce edited Material Powers through Routledge. The volume is mainly about bringing power back into cultural studies, especially cultural studies research that attends to issues of state and colonialism, but without losing out on the “material turn” in the anthropology of the state (on that, see a great 2006 reader, The Anthropology of the State). While the chapters are not all of equal quality, a few really stand out, provided you’re willing to swallow the cultural studies pill — there are not bolded concepts and data seems to come in many forms.

Personally, I’ve always been exceptionally tolerant (fond, even) of cultural studies because the entire enterprise is, when done well, like a theory/philosophy incubator, moreover, the writers while sometimes maddeningly opaque, often provide readers with sentizing imagry that is unforgettable (here, I’m thinking of A Thousand Plateaus). Material Powers, so far at least, has not uncovered any masterful metaphors yet, but the authors masterfully tackle a huge issue for researchers who appreciate “the material”, which is: what to do with such a dirty word as “power” without violating basic assumptions in actor-network and foucauldian models of society and governance?