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Déjà Vu

Serres after Latour, Deleuze after Harman, “Nature Writing” after “Network Theory”

Hanjo Berressem

Pages 59 - 79


In today’s academic landscape, network theories are gaining in discursive and operational currency. In his book ‘Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics’, for instance, Graham Harman introduces Latour’s actor-network theory into what Harman calls “object-oriented philosophy.” In order to understand the success of recent network theories and to put them into both historical and conceptual perspectives, this essay revisits some network theories avant la lettre. Such an “archaeology of the future” is needed because neither Latour nor Harman reference important precursers of network theory, such as Gregory Bateson, Gilles Deleuze, or Michel Serres, in any serious manner. First, the essay describes some of the main characteristics of Latour’s actor-network theory in the light of and against Harman’s argument in Prince of Networks. Second, it shows in what ways the practice of “nature writing” could be thought of as a precursor of network theory. Third, it delineates some Deleuzian concepts that might be helpful for future network theories. In its conclusion, this essay argues that ‘doing network theory’ implies a number of fundamental changes in the practice of literary and cultural studies, as well as in the practice of the humanities in general.


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