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The materiality of what?

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A singularly influential sense of 'material worlds' has been developed by actor-network theories of science and technology, which trace out the kind of social action that emerges from encounters between 'humans' and 'non-humans'. What happens when this approach to materiality takes on the question of law? One answer is suggested by Bruno Latour's recent ethnography of law making in France's Conseil d'Etat. Interestingly, this study turns out to be not so much an actor-network theory of law as occasion to add a new dimension to the material worlds of actor-networks, namely, the communicative dimension of 'regimes of enunciation'. My hypothesis is that this distinction between the sociality of actor-networks and the logic of enunciation is problematic because it uncritically adopts the premise that there is an institution such as 'law' that has to be explained or materialized by social science, thereby diminishing the critical energy that the theory of actor-networks or of dispositifs might bring to the study of law.

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