"Viewing the Technoscientific State through the Heteroscope"

“Viewing the Technoscientific State through the Heteroscope: The State, displaced or misplaced?” (could also be called “The Dancer and the Dance”) Alexander Stingl, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/Ode.


Alexander gave a dynmaic presentation in a style, for example, reminiscent of Deleuze. He opened with an interesting comment about governing and dancing, challenging audience members to rethink concepts they have happily taken for granted for decades. The high-watermark for me was hearing “The new State is, I argue, a nomadic entity that gazes at us just as heteroscopically as we gaze back at it.” The notion of a heteroscope implicates, in my best estimation, the idea of a complex state. Of course, actor-models of the state must be cast out in favor of a more diffuse and networked vision of the state. Put another way, it might imply what Patrick Carroll has been theorizing, namely, the state as a “complex gathering” or, as he sometimes says, “a thing” (the way that a party is a thing, both just one thing and also a thing made of other stuff like people and drinks and cake). The underlying theoretical justification for this ought to be found, and Alexander said as much during the talk, precisely where Patrick Carroll, Jan, and I find it … through the lens of actor-network theory.

I first met Alexander at 4S during the meeting in Copenhagen; however, I’ve seen his work, and he is quite prolific (see cv here).

I first read Alexander’s work in the American Sociologist. His paper, “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves,” is about:

Starting with a distinction of two types of discourse analysis—the analysis of a discourse and discursive analysis—the article discusses an analytical genealogy of truth and knowledge production, that can fulfill both empirical and archival requirements. The model’s main purpose lies in understanding diagnostic and therapeutic decision-making in doctor–patient interactions.

Stingl’s original abstract for 4S reads:

“How to govern?”, is a question that not only fazes governments, politicians and political parties but an increasing number of (world-)societal actors, enmeshed in the making of science policy and politics of science itself. They are subject to government while licensed to usurp governing positions over disbanded and unevenly organized societal collectivities, imbricated in regimes of governance that are post-legitimized, post-transparent, post-democratic procedures.

As STS scholars, we must critique the acceleration in dependence on techno-scientific practices of knowledge and management beyond the State: Citizens of nation-states and post-national conglomerates, and producers of techno-scientific knowledge demand legitimated representation, representative participation, and transparency, where post-democratic society and techno-scientific embeddedness of decision-making processes on the trans-local scale (trans-local meaning, broadly, that stake-holders and stock-holders do not share the same space of causes and effects) seem to suggest that people paradoxically proliferate and govern their existences in abandonment of the State, while transnational corporate entities rematerialize as quasi-state entities. STS critique demands suggestions for alternative forms of governance and novel conceptualizations of statehood: Does the techno-scientific state emerge naturally from the actual governance practices of actors such as corporations, NGOs and collective actors formed by interested private citizens as stakeholders? Will it redefine the boundaries of empirical and theoretical concepts in displacing or misplacing the State, and how does the state so placed see people and how do they look back? The new State is, I argue, a nomadic entity that gazes at us just as heteroscopically as we gaze back at it.