Infancy, Generation and Experience: Notes on the Sociological Empirical and Toward a Political Theory of Children’s Association

Oswell, David. 2007. Infancy, Generation and Experience: Notes on the Sociological Empirical and Toward a Political Theory of Children’s Association. Sociology Working Papers, pp. 1-18. [Article]

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In some ways we have come a long way from Locke’s story of the Dutch ambassador’s account of weather so cold that it freezes water so hard that an elephant could stand on it [and upon hearing the story, the King of Siam responding: 'Hitherto I have believed the strange things you have told me, because I look upon you as a sober fair man; but now I am sure you lie' (1688/1978: 33)]1 or of similar stories, such as from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)2, of probability and reliable witnessing. Much recent theoretical labour, especially in the fields of science and technology studies and cultural theory and some sub-disciplines of anthropology, has shown how the empirical is far from settled in the site of the scientific observer, not only inasmuch as the scientist is fallible to social forces, but inasmuch as matter observed is agentic, motile and sticky. Matter under the microscope always affects the vision of the experimenter. Whether that matter is fixed or only known through the traces it leaves, the eye’s vision is always clouded. It is in this sense that writers working in these still relatively new fields talk about the confusion of epistemological and ontological tongues. Knowing is making and doing is being and the kiss of being is uncontained (cf. Callon, Latour, Haraway, Law, etc).
In the middle of these translations across knowing and being, the human and technological, the natural and social, and the natural sciences and human sciences, any history of the modest masculine witness is put in its place in the past (Haraway, 1997; Shapin and Schaffer, 1985: Shapin, 1994). And yet I think that there is good reason to revisit that past not in order to resurrect old debates, but to re-form and in-form present ones. I want to offer a brief and cursory genealogical account of the emergence of a domain of children’s experience and frame that account in the context of a series of questions about the infancy or maturity of the subject of experience. In doing so, I want to say a few things about the subject of the empirical and its associational being.

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06 Jun 2013 14:39

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29 Apr 2020 15:51


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