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The Fiist Euiopean Piagmatism Confeience

Roma, Sept 19-21, 2u12




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Antoine Bennion
Centie ue sociologie ue l'innovation, NINES-PaiisTechCNRS 0NR 718S
6u bu St-Nichel, 7Suu6 Paiis, Fiance
antoine.hennionmines-paiistech.fi


Ny puipose heie is not to auu the concept of attachment to the list of analytical
concepts ciiculating in sociology. Quite the contiaiy. Concepts aie supposeu to be
inuepenuent, abstiact, anu geneial. To analyze means to cut, to sepaiate. It means to uetach
causes fiom effects, stiuctuie fiom events, iules fiom acts, oi unseen logics fiom facts.
1

Attachment suggests exactly the opposite: it links, it ties, anu it uoes not cut. Two
uiscontinuities in paiticulai unueimine ieseaich, which in my opinion iemain insufficiently
challengeu. The fiist is the iuea that the moie inuepenuent the scientist is of the ieality she
obseives, the bettei hei analysis will be; the seconu is the iuea that the moie geneial anu
inuepenuent of the specific object of an activity its explanation anuoi inteipietation by
social scientists is, the bettei it will be.

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This is what is at stake in using the woiu attachment: not to piomote a new
vocabulaiy anu, in so uoing, to uefenu a new analytic cut, but following in William }ames's
steps, to exploie the possibility of thinking "in continuity".
2
The main featuie that the woiu
attachment highlights is piecisely that attachment speaks of both the fact of being attacheu
anu the thing one is attacheu to. Liking wine, loving music, belonging to a community oi
uefenuing a cause: each time the thing in question is pait of the way one can be attacheu to it
anu, iecipiocally, the mouality of attachment is pait of its own object. Attachment tightly
uepenus upon each specific object of attachment. This pievents uefining theoietically an
abstiact concept of attachment, anu then applying it to anything willy-nilly. That is the
pioblem with woius like habitus, motivation oi inteiest: theii fiist move is to cut the fact of
liking oi valuing fiom the thing oi the piactice being likeu oi valueu, in oiuei to uefine a

1
Synthesis makes no bettei, that supposes a piioi analysis.
2
See }ames (1912), Lectuie vII, "The Continuity 0f Expeiience": 27Ssq.
mouality oi a piopei logic of attachment in geneial. Beie comes the unquestioneu iuea that a
concept will be moie scientific the moie inuepenuent it is fiom whatevei it is being applieu
to. Bow can we take an opposing tact anu nevei allow ouiselves to obseive one attachment
without letting it be attacheu to its piey. Inueeu, questioning the pietention of sociology to
pioviue geneial concepts, positive factois, abstiact causalities as well as compiehensive
piinciples oi foimal iules of action is not an easy challenge (Latoui, 2uuS). Bence the
}amesian iefeience: unueistanuing attachments amounts to finuing inteinal local causes
insiue the seamless fabiics of heteiogeneous iealities, not to auuing exteinal explanations oi
inteipietations to given iealities. That is what expeiience means: attachment can only be
liveu, felt, expeiienceu, anu this incluues the compiehension of the attachment itself.
Attachment is that which holus things togethei anu that by which things aie helu; it
constitutes the stuff we aie maue fiom anu confeis agency upon us. Attachment implies a
foim of ineitia, something that ietains, but also pioviues suppoit that launches us into
motion. To 'be' in a state of attachment oi to 'have' an attachmentthe concept shoulu be
caiefully uistinguisheu fiom a binuing oi a fixtuie, because attachment must be maue, anu it
must be expeiienceu. It is both a way of being anu a way of uoing, it involves both feeling a
tie anu being a pait of that tie.
The veiy woiu is of special inteiest because it expiesses a mute foice of connection
that can only be uiscoveieu thiough tiials anu testing. What is moie, to speak of attachment
uoes not piejuuge the meiit oi the impoitance of ceitain types of connection. The woiu has
the iathei uaiing quality of iemaining in a state of flux, in a piimaiy state of inueteiminacy.
Attachment is piecisely what piouuces ueteimination beyonu any uistinction between the
ueteimineu anu the ueteiminingwhen we say 'she is a veiy ueteimineu peison', we
paiauoxically use a passive foim to say a veiy active uisposition. The same is tiue with all
those things we like so much to be uiiven by, those 'obsessions' we aptly say 'we coulun't
live without' oi 'we can't get enough of', be they canuies oi uiets, little manias oi uangeious
uepenuencies like smoking: aie we ueciuing oi aie we compelleu. What peifect examples of
being active while being tiuly passive. But we fiequently, without any compunction, claim
we aie being pusheu in an impeiious fashion to act at the veiy same time as we aie
piofounuly engageu in uoing.
S
The veiy giammai of all these phiases places us well beyonu
the senseless binaiy opposition between activity anu passivity.
4


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As we can now see, theie is nothing acciuental about the inuefinite chaiactei of the
notion of attachment. The topic of this piece is how to captuie this inueteiminacy with
woius. We will consiuei it as the iesult of an assessment maue in iesponse to an expeiience
oi a tiial.
S
Theie is nothing like an acciuent, a sepaiation, oi the obligation to choose to biing
us to an awaieness of what caiiies ieal weight among the things, people, oi situations that
we believe we love. 0ui question has the meiit of suggesting that testing pieceues the

S
L. Thvenot (2uu6) uiscusses the same fluiuity of meaning with iegaius to the concept of engagement, in
which we pivot between the 'act of engaging' anu the fact of 'being engageu'. Baving caiiieu out a lengthy
ciitical ieview of the liteiatuie on collective action, Cfa (2uu7) takes a position that woulu also avoiu
mechanical ueteiminism in his minute analysis of how people get mobilizeu.
4
See !"#$%, footnote 8.
S
I uo inueeu stait by assembling the elements of a uefinition, but this will be less about establishing a list of
piopeities than about qualifying the woiu by its gaps, by what it leaves open, anu by what it iefuses to uo.
outcometo know what we cling to it must be put to the test. When attachment imposes its
piesence it uoes so without piesenting ieasons. Theie is no stateu ciiteiia othei than the
iecognition of the attachment itself that will answei the question of what an attachment is.
Neithei the impoitance, peitinence, noi even the natuie of attachment is initially at stake:
we can feel a loss without knowing piecisely what has been lost. No uiamatic tension neeu
be invokeu eithei, since these things to which we aie attacheu piesent themselves in anu
among moie neutial choices toowhich wine to uiink with this meal, who to sit next to at
the table, which tiack to listen to in the moining. These aie the countless little nothing that
mean eveiything to uswe can be helu veiy stiongly to something that uoes mattei in the
least to otheis ("it's nothing", "it's not impoitant", as we say casually without tiuly believing
it ouiselves).
Attachment cannot be iegisteieu in teims of causes, oi intentions. Neithei uoes it
belong to the vocabulaiy of action, even if it can be giappleu with thiough this language.
Attachment is moie like a liability, in the sense the woiu has taken on in business: an
obligation fiom the past that is biought to beai on the piesent. Except thatanu this is the
pointtheie aie no tiicks of accounting able to piouuce such accounts. Theie is no possible
equivalence that can be uiawn out of what looks like a list of incommensuiables, a
potpouiii: oui way of having bieakfast, an obsession foi one's caieei, the Sunuay football
game with olu buuuies oi the planet that neeus to be saveu. The justifications foi attachment
only come when they aie calleu uponto uefenu a taste, a piactice oi a habit; to shaie it
with otheis; to oblige ouiselves to ienounce it; to weigh what it costs to maintain it, 'live
with' it, oi even abanuon it. An attachment's contingent oi occasional appeaiance which may
seem at fiist to contiauict its impeiious natuie is anothei paiauoxical featuie of what it
means to be attacheu. Since it must be put to tiial anu the oppoitunities foi testing aie iaiely
continuous, attachment uepenus stiictly upon ciicumstances in the stiongest sense of the
woiu.
6
But the fact of being casual, uepenuing, anu unueteimineu uoes not pievent one
attachment fiom ieappeaiing insistently in a vaiiety of ielateu manifestations.

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What attaches us, anu to what aie we attacheu. This question has othei meiits that
follow fiom the pieceuing chaiacteiistics, but which weie less appaient in "What keeps us
attacheu.", my foimei punchiei foimulation of the question. As we have now giaspeu step
by step, attachment is not only inueteiminate, constiaining anu situational, but it is also
symmetiical. Bo we holu onto something oi uoes something holu onto us. Beyonu such
iecipiocity, which woulu iemain piofounuly uualist, the connections to the uiveise natuies
in which we aie entangleu, that holu us anu which holu us togethei, call foi a ieuistiibution
of agency
7
, ueployeu in the inteilacing of ins anu outs wheie eveiy connection uoes
something, but wheie none is sufficient on its own. As Biuno Latoui has noteu, the iuea of
attachment immeuiately implies a challenge to the notion of causality to the benefit of a
much less tiuy set of inteiactions: fumbling, sciaping up against, mutual coaching. Insteau of
cleai uistinctions between uepenuent things anu ueteimining ones, we pass to the continuity

6
Foitunately, oui attachment to fieeuom only gains substance when it is being thieateneu.
7
This was a long-teim uebate (&'(' Tayloi, 198S; Beck, 1992; Aichei, 2uuu), to which ANT scholais gainfully
contiibuteu (Law, |1992j 2uuS; Callon & Law, 199S; Callon & Rabehaiisoa, 2uu4; Latoui, 2uuS).
of a less tienchant but infinitely moie piouuctive foim of uistiibuteu action uisseminateu in
these netwoiks (Latoui, 1999b).
8

Let us uiaw to a close this wholesale unwiapping of tiaits, ways of seeing things, anu
tuins of thought that the woiu attachment can iaise. But befoie we uo so theie is one othei
somewhat foigotten uimension of this expiession. Attachment signifies a binu, iestiiction,
iestiaint, anu uepenuence that ieminus us we aie piisoneis, confineu on all siues by oui
histoiy anu oui enviionment. Yet in some ways, the woiu has been unbuiueneu of these
negative connotations. In its most common meanings attachment fiist invokes the
ielationship of a mothei to hei young, in the most coipoial uimension of bouily contact,
uepenuence anu piotection, anu love foi anothei. This foim of attachment was inventeu by
psychologists.
9
This is also how the teim is mobilizeu by piagmatic sociologists of action
insiue of a much moie geneial foimulation of foims of engagement in the woilu, wheie
attachment is natuially associateu to a iegime of familiaiity, to the uomestic "cit" (Boltanski
& Thvenot, 2uu6).
1u
The othei moie fiequent usage of attachment ielates, to the contiaiy,
to piofounu convictions anu stiong engagements, to the most geneial anu geneious of
iueals: these aie the attachment to values like justice oi fieeuom. Inueeu, even if in a much
less exclusive fashion, less piecise woius such as 'bonu' oi 'tie' can also easily teetei fiom a
negative iuea like constiaint oi iestiiction to an iuea that is not just positive but is cheiisheu
anu ieveieu. Within a uomestic iegistei the woiu becomes chaigeu with all the iichness of
the things that aie associateu with it: bonus foi example to oui neai anu ueai, to places, to
membeiships, to a mothei tongue, oi to oiigins.
Inveisely, howevei, attachment has no ieason to limit itself to things that aie
agieeable, gianu oi sublime, because it is not in the content of what happens to us that it
takes on its positive value but in the way it is expeiienceu. I woulu go so fai as to say that, to
the contiaiy, it is with iegaius to uifficult pioblemssuch as uestiuctive behaviois oi
painful situations, states of weakness oi vulneiability, uisability, chionic illness, alcoholism,
uiug auuiction, Alzheimei's, oi simply the piocess of aging anu ueclinethat speaking in
teims of attachment geneiates the most vigoious alteinative foims of unueistanuing.
11
This
is piecisely because in tuining existence into a long seiies of tiials in the moie technical anu
less affective sense that I just gave to this woiu, these pioblems, uifficulties oi weaknesses
impose anu oblige a tuin towaius piagmatism. What can it mean, fiom the point of view of a
uisableu peison, to say that one peifoims uisabilityanu so makes it a capacityinsteau of
saying someone "is" uisableu oi "has" a hanuicap. It means that people caiiy such
conuitions with them. What keeps us attacheu, what makes us holu togethei: these pioblems
impose an abanuonment of the paialyzing oscillation between meuical uefinitions anu social
uefinitions in oiuei to concentiate attention on the constitutive uimension of what it is, in

8
Fiench uses inteiesting ways of getting away fiom the binaiy oscillation between activepassive, as the
pionominal foim ("il se piouuit ceci"), oi the uouble infinitive, like "faiie faiie": "ceci lui a fait faiie cela", "this
has hau someone oi something uo something", oi "se laissei faiie": active oi passive.! Those ieflexive foims
aie the contempoiaiy tiace of the ancient uieek miuule foim, that pieceues the cleavage of the active fiom the
passive (Benveniste 1966 p. 17S; Latoui, 1999a: 21; Bennion &) %+', 2uuu: 166; Bennion, 2uu7: 1u6).
9
In B.W. Winnicott's (196S) wake a whole theoiy was maue of attachment (Ainswoith, 1968; Bowlby, 1978),
most notably to uefenu family theiapy.
1u
A "city", in theii vocabulaiy, is an oiuei of woith mateiializeu in a ciicumsciibeu aiena.
11
We have tackleu these situations in a seminai entitleu 'Alteieu Bumanities', moving beyonu the oscillation
between stigma anu iuentity ( Bumanits alties , A. Bennion & }. Roux, CSINoByS).
fact, to be in these conuitions. But in spite of ieluctant bouies people also ceaselessly anu
iegulaily ieaiiange these conuitions, uuiing eveiy new oiueal that imposes a test; they tame
these conuitions by aiticulating themselves to otheis, to places, to things anu to themselves.
People iemake this state of uisability into what they aie in the veiy piocess while they aie
getting themselves useu to theii own state (Bennion &) %+', 2u12).
12


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Attachment is expeiienceu - "piouv".
1S
The 'expeiience', by which we mean fiom
Fiench to put to the test but also to feel, iequiies a bouy. What is this bouy that is testeu,
feels, woiks anu is woikeu, enuuies anu iesponus, anu foiges itself thiough expeiimentation
as in the bouy of the athlete, the patient, the amateui, the hanuicap, the pianist. The bouy
that each one is anu the bouy that each one has, as N. Neileau-Ponty stiikingly ieminus us,
14

is a bouy that we cannot escape. At the same time, it is a suppoit anu a meuium that ieacts.
Bouies aie not any moie of a given than objects oi states of being. They aie also uefineu, to
the contiaiy, by this stiange alieauy evokeu mix of inueteiminacy anu iesistance. The bouy
is ueciueuly maue of exactly the same mateiial as the attachments that weigh on it.
1S
No
balance sheet can stop the bouy's ueployment. It is entiiely tiibutaiy, flowing foith fiom the
contacts it makes. Bouies aie stubboin anu peisistent, but theii suppleness anu iefoimation
is continuous. Ny woik on amateuis piecisely tiieu to value theii piactice as a way of
making bouies, things emeige thiough theii ielationship: they aie my little teacheis in
piagmatism. In a sense, as STS have given back objects theii %(&",-, by insisting on the
coipoieal engagement of the amateui I tiy to ienuei .%)!&",& to the passionate.
Inueeu, as shows the amateui, the giammai of attachment is a stiange one,
peipenuiculai to the activepassive axis, uifficult to put into woius. Ny woik with uenevieve
Teil on taste, oi iathei on the ways in which the amateui 'makes himself love' things
(Bennion & Teil, 2uuS; 2uu4), awkwaiuly attempteu to finu an expiession of such a
giammai of taste: in the thieau of faiie faiie
16
, we useu se faiie aimei , theiefoie, oi
se mettie aimei
17
("to have oneself love something"), anu iecipiocally "to assist things
to expiess themselves". But we hau to iesoit to many othei laboieu tuins of phiase, like "to
put oneself in a conuition to actively be affecteu by", oi "to let oneself go into the giip of the
object while continuing to value it" in the lovely uouble sense of the woiu value.
18
Bow coulu

12
Also see F. uuichet & %+' (2uu9) foi a seiies of case stuuies of homecaie woikeis woiking with ciitically
uepenuant people. The volume contains a ieview of uisability stuuies (pp. 8-1u) with an emphatic ciitique of
appioaches that woulu favoi stigmatization anu social iepiesentation, ovei empiiically ieseaich into how
people in these situations uefine theii own states of being (Nuiphy, 1987; Zola, 1989; Winance, 2uu1).
1S
Epiouvei in Fiench, as "to expeiience" in English, means both to tiy anu to feel, oi even moie stiongly, to
put to the test anu to be afflicteu.
14
Neileau-Ponty (194S, 1
st
pait: Le coips ).
1S
Be la mme toffe , says W. }ames (in Fiench; maybe we shoulu say "of the same fabiic"), in La notion ue
conscience , 1912 |eu. in }ames, 1976j.
16
B. Latoui boiioweu this foimula fiom A. uieimas (1976), with his actants ('what uoes the uoing') which
peimitteu the uetachment of the question of action fiom that of the subject.
17
Again heie, this cuiious 'miuule foim' pionominal in Fiench, pointing at a state neithei active noi passive:
se mettie means "to begin to", but the giammai cleaily says that this implies a self-move: liteially it says
"to put oneself into movement in oiuei to."
18
In his plea foi a social science that woulu be a 'theoiy of valuation', }. Bewey (19S9) pulleu out the
impiessive seiies of woius that mean at once piaiseu anu piiceu, lovable anu expensive: ueai, esteemeu,
appieciateu, piecious, valueu etc. The same is tiue in Fiench.
we signify such a paiauox: the fine aiticulation of attentiveness anu fastiuious contiol (in
things even when these go uniestiaineu) with abanuon anu zeal (which is itself immeuiately
ie-iestiaineu by evaluation, naiiatives of expeiience, anu appiopiiation into stoiies).
Attachments, like these foimulations, aie heavy anu ciiculai. They play outsiue of the
linguistic uualism between active anu the passive anu between subject anu the object, which
is best expiesseu by woius such as pleasuie oi passion. Nobouy unueistanus these to be
about passivity; they aie insteau kinus of actions to the powei of two that taiget theii
opposite: oveiflowing bounuaiies anu possession by an object.
19
At the iisk of piesenting a
ueceptive simplification, we coulu say that attachment is the 'passive' inveise (passive in the
buugetaiy sense I gave the woiu eailiei) of assemblage (Latoui, 2uuS), which captuies the
moie active siue of making connections. Assemblages aie a way of ieuistiibuting action anu
human volition in a cosmology of uispaiate 'actants'. It is theiefoie a way of ieuoing
politicsthe piocess of ueciuing what kinu of woilu we wantin a way that be at last
engageu with things. Foi its pait, attachment insists on the fact that to uo so, we have to
abanuon ouiselves. It insists on the necessity of being aiiesteu by things, of feeling what we
aie thiough iesistance, anu of weighing what ties us to the woiluto iemake the woilu, the
woilu must be felt. With assemblage, B. Latoui ievisits }. Bewey, iechaiging the
philosophei's 'conceins' with the weight of things that fill up the woilu. The woik uone by
attachment is complementaiy. We take W. }ames anu his '.$%(/%)%', anu ueploy them into a
woilu filleu (thanks to STS) with techniques anu collectives that }ames himself blissfully
ignoieu.

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Ny own woik on attachment hau begun with the expeiience of amateuis. The fiist
step is ietuining the bouy of the tastei, tieateu as an accomplishment, to the scene. In
compaiing wine anu music but also in compaiing moie fai flung objects like the climbei's
canyon, the footballei's fielu, oi even the singei's voice, we effectively captuie all the uelicate
woik that must be ueployeu in oiuei to become sensitive to the uiffeiences that mattei. That
woikon the self, on one's bouy, anu one's spiiithas to be uone both in the moment anu
ovei the long teim (Bennion, 2uu7). As much as it is a foim of bouily woik, taste is about
woiking up objects to make uiffeiences in them emeige, which iecipiocally can only come
acioss to those who sense these uiffeiences. Attachment thiough anu thioughbut fiom the
point of view of the amateui who knows this bettei than anyone else, the paiauox is
inveiseu: theii main concein is about things that aie not in any way moie given than
bouies.
2u
To those who aie not inteiesteu in them, the tiajectoiy of a balloon, the aspeiities
in a iock face, the swing of a iacket, the pitch of a voice, aie nothing moie than chance
occuiiences in an ineit woilu, totally uninteiesting. Symphonies, games oi wines, it's all the
same thing. Whethei it is hip-hop oi Fiench lute sonatas, iepeitoiies aie simply boiing
catalogues. But this inuiffeience 0# things which an inuiffeience )0 things piovokes uoes not
mean that tastes aie just aibitiaiy signs, as ciitical sociology puts it. 0n the contiaiy, a

19
The woiu passion can be somewhat misleauing by auuing the iuea that attachment is an extieme foimat, but
this is not obligatoiy. Passion is but one foimat among otheis. Attachment iefeis just as much to the tastes that
aie most familiai.
2u
This is the uefinition of .$%(/%)% given by W. }ames (1912), those 'things in theii pluiality' (}ames, 19u9:
21u). 0ne can think also of the place u.B. Neau (19S2) gives to the "physical thing" in the consciousness we get
of the woilu, thiough theii "manipulation".
piagmatist view invites us to take the co-constiuction in foiming tastes seiiously. The woiu
'taste' itself says as much. It inuicates the taste of things just as well as having a taste foi
things. Neithei of the two is a given, but they uiscovei each othei in the act of testing. The
piocess of making oneself appieciate is inuissociable fiom the piocess of making things
aiiive. Naking things happen, ueploying theii peitinent uiffeiences at the same time as we
ueploy the capacity anu the pleasuie of feeling these uiffeiences. To think about the activity
of the amateui as an attachment is to insist on the fact that it is woik uone out of a tightly
woven tissue of inuiviuual anu collective past expeiiences that have built up the sensibility
of the amateui, little by little. These expeiiences have uefineu a uomain filleu with objects
anu nuances, of know-how anu iepeitoiies, of ciiteiia anu techniques, of common histoiies
anu contesteu evolutions. Thinking in this way theiefoie means that the activity-sensibility
of the amateui is caught in tight linkages, without which it woulu have no consistency.
This activity-sensibility implies that fai fiom uampening the expeiience of tasting oi
ienueiing it iepetitive, the weight of these inteiconnecteu linkages enlivens taste. These
linkages give the object of taste a chiseleu piecision that peimits the most subtle ciiteiia that
uefine its quality foi this one oi anothei to be examineu in an open anu polemical fashion.
This uemanus that tastes be ie-enacteu eveiy time, as the woiu peifoimance, common to
spoits anu to ait, aptly inuicates: taste is also a peifoimance. By the same token, this makes
it possible foi taste to constantly piouuce something unexpecteu. Even active anu obstinate
iepetition is a positive, methouical ieaffiimation anu not a mechanical iepiouuction of a
given taste. The necessity of peimanent peifoimation challenges as much the iuea of
automatic iepetition as it uoes of cieation &1 "!2!+0. To entei into the expeiiences to which
amateuis submit themselves each time is uemanuing. It iequiies them to ietuin to the
conuition, shaipen theii expectations, mobilize theii attention, anu ieinvest in the object oi
foice it to ienuei what it has given once. Without this the object itself woulu have no chance
of aiiiving in the stiongest sense of the teim. It unlocks a piesence that must be conqueieu
each time. Taste must be ceaselessly testeu, confionteu oi put into question. 0utsiue of this
unueistanuing we woulu be haiu-piesseu to explain why football fans ietuin to see matches,
why music-loveis go to conceits, oi why wine enthusiasts keep on tasting wines that they
know they love, anu tiy othei ones (Teil, 2uu4; Bennion, 2uu7; BeNoia, 2u11).

C6)%7;*/6)+ $%%6'>$)</). #&( %6;-*( 63 #&/).*
In conclusion, I woulu like to auuiess the piactical consequences that such a use of
'attacheu' conceptsof woius which come fiom actois anu which aie uestineu to ietuin to
themhas foi the piactice of sociology. If a concept becomes too uetacheu it names no
pioblem, becomes auto-iefeiential, anu ceases to ieply to anything othei than itself in a
closeu system. But if it is not uetacheu enough then it uoes no woik, it uoes not intiouuce
any uiffeience between itself as a concept anu woius that aie commonly being useu with
opposite meanings, piecisely because woius aie boin of pioblems that aie not yet iesolveu
anu of emeiging situations which must be put into woius to be bettei acteu upon.
The shaieu histoiies of uisableu peisons stiuggling to be iecognizeu anu of uisability
ieseaich, which has uesciibeu theii extenueu stiuggle, pioviue a stiiking example of this
type of ciosseu ielationship between actois anu sociologists. It uemonstiates with gieat
claiity the methou of an 'attacheu' sociologist: picking out woius that put the liveu
expeiience of the bouies anu the collectives that aie emeiging into woius. Beie too, linkeu to
the tiansfoimations in the conception of uemociacy that I have just invokeu, histoiy has
moveu quickly anu in stiict pioximity with the social sciences. In just a few yeais seveial
ielateu pioblems have been iauically iefoimulateu fiom a question of social iepiesentation
to the uemanus of self-piouuction. All of the vocabulaiies employeu by the movements foi
the hanuicappeu, the mentally ills, anu olu people (to name them by theii foiecloseu
uesignations) aie steepeu in social sciences. With the suppoit of ieseaicheis, with input
fiom them, anu sometimes thiough the vigoi oi iage channeleu by theii questions, these
movements have shifteu away fiom combating the stigma that E. uoffman (196S) maue so
visible, namely the uenunciation of iuentity by otheis cloakeu in noimative mantles. They
have shifteu to an emphasis on people's unique expeiiences anu on concietely analyzing
peisonal situations.
As the movements have changeu so have the woius. Not because the woius weie
false, but to the contiaiy because they hau completeu theii woik. Woius accompany a
constant ieconfiguiation that, in a single gestuie, makes them cease to giasp what is
happening as the woilu they tiace is being slowly taken to pieces. Concepts aie aiticulations
that make things come into being as they pionounce them (Tayloi, 198S).
I can uiaw no othei lesson but the following: sociologists aie in a bettei position to
make a contiibution as they get closei, moie involveu, anu moie attentive to peoples' anu
collectives' liveu expeiiences. Sociologists iesonate, anu sometimes, like miuwives, uelivei
the woilu that is coming.
21
Saying that we aie attacheu is saying that iathei than obseiving
oi paiticipating, we accompany. This is the veiy meaning of the woiu 'methou', making the
jouiney togethei. Sociology is not a piofession that woiks fiom an objective uistance. Anu
we ieally may wonuei whethei it is so iueal to ienuei the lively anu the mobile colu anu
ineit. We mouestly put into woius the pioblems anu conceins emeiging aiounu us anu
sometimes emeiging thanks to us. This woik suipasses by fai the vain pietentions of
objective intellectuals (Callon, 1999).
In the case of uisabilities, this shaieu woik has leu to innovative inquiiy, notably on
the piouuction of iuentity anu on the bouy as it emeiges thiough mateiial anu collective
uevices, as well as on the ethical anu political value of seeking to cieate as-yet-untiieu
capacities foi uisableu people. If the concepts that mobilizeu uisableu peisons weie so
stiongly sociological, we must iecognize that fai fiom being a iecent phenomenonthat is,
the inuication of a mouein woilu that is choking on ieflexivitythis obseivation coulu be
maue foi the 'olu' list of sociological concepts that I evokeu: classes, institutions, piofessions,
statuses, anu netwoiks. It is not uifficult to see that all of these woius also emeigeu fiom
pioblems poseu anu battles wageu by conciete actois. The woius weie not inventeu by
sociologists to name pieviously ignoieu iealities. Anu if they have become less peitinent it is
not because they weie ill-foigeu, noi is it that the iealities they iefei to have completely
vanisheu, which is what we uieam of with the stale uebate about social class. It is that both
the woilu anu the woius have been tiansfoimeu, notably uue to the woik of sociologists. We
shoulu not fight to ietain concepts when theii uefeat is a measuie of theii success. When
they have put in theii woik anu 30"& )2&!$ )!/&, concepts expiie. This is what I hope foi
attachment!


21
Beie, the enviionment comes to minu. We woulu ceitainly be in a uiffeient lanuscape weie not foi the woik
uone by the social sciences to get it on the political agenua (Beck, 1992; Latoui, 2uu4).
Refeiences

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