Review Of "Aircraft Stories: Decentering The Object In Technoscience" By J. Law

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Law (sociology and science studies, Lancaster Univ., UK) offers a thoroughly postmodern approach to a (failed) technoscience project: Britain's effort to build a military aircraft, the TSR2, in the 1950s and 1960s. Eschewing narratives, Law adopts a "pinboard" approach. Brochures, drawings, editorials, reports, equations, and even Law himself are placed on a pinboard where they "perform." The alleged benefit of this approach is to break down the "singularity" of both subject and object in favor of "multiplicities" that overlap if looked at one way, but not another. What remains is fractionalized knowledge of ontologically multiple "performed," decentered objects and similarly displaced knowers. Yet Law wishes to avoid the state of utter skepticism and political irrelevance to which this approach brings the reader, arguing that moving among whatever has been placed on the pinboard can open up discontinuities and "obdurate interferences" permitting "disruptions." Does Law succeed in avoiding skepticism and political irrelevance? From this reviewer's point of view, he does not. Although he admirably explains the postmodernist terms used, his own approach is utterly uncritical; challenges to his approach are nowhere to be found on his own pinboard. Recommended only for libraries specializing in cultural studies and the sociology of technology. Graduate students and above.


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