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Cosmopolitics: “To Become Within” – From Cosmos to Urban Life


1rst paragraph: This is why this hybrid expression (to become within) seems a rather appropriate way to guide us in the midst of the complex assemblages that make up the common eldwork for cosmopolitics. The modernist view of the world and of what politics is about is immediately challenged. Cosmopolitics must clearly be positioned in the tradition of ANT and of the “composition work” required by Bruno Latour (2010) to better understand what modernism did to us as well as to the cosmos. Actor Network Theory, although very often interpreted in various ways, is often reduced to some concern for “non-humans” in social science studies. This was clearly derived from work in the sociology of science and technology, which was the rst eld of investigation of Law, Callon, and Latour. But, beyond this starting point, ANT led us to acknowledge that no existence and no society can be maintained without these artifacts, and that the style of cosmos and relationships with “nature” is more one of composition than of mastership. “Following actors” is another methodological rule of ANT that makes us avoid any modeling attitude, as a systemic understanding of ANT would do, especially frequent in the natural social science eld. An ANT approach must account for all the reasons that make all kinds of actors act, and seek to understand “from within” their rationale and the intertwined associations they are able to build to make society exist. In this way, the method “from within” is congruent with ANT principles and explores the various agencies of all stakeholders without discarding any of them a priori. This is why an ANT cosmopolitical understanding of projects oers the opportunity for a major shift. Urban life cannot be separated from these concerns of cosmos and modernist politics since it was largely designed as a relation of detachment from any kind of experience “from within.” The main resource for mastering the complexity of urban life was traditionally the 2D map where an overhanging view shaped the relationship with the world to be built, in a “projection” mode, a term used by armed forces to be deployed overseas. It might not be a mere coincidence that 3D vision software has allowed us, for almost 30 years now, to adopt a vision from within. However, since we do not necessarily adopt the philosophy adapted to our technology, we may keep using 3D software as control devices to provide us with a more realistic display, while still managing to avoid being aected by the cosmos as we explore it. This is exactly what the conict between the hero of Avatar and his commander-in-chief is about: understanding the Avatar world from within is not just a question of holographic technology that enables one to perceive from within, but rather an ability to “become with” the Avatar people: “becoming within” at the same time as putting one’s own integrity at risk by being aected (and sometimes in pleasant ways, indeed!) by the whole planet Avatar as a cosmos. However, cosmopolitics is not so easily summed up in this stereotyped opposition which may be very powerful storytelling but does not exactly account for the complex composition process that makes up the very critical work of cosmopolitics. Expertise in composition is neither a specic scientist’s expertise, nor a super-scientist’s ability to encompass the cosmic scale of issues! On the contrary, in order to understand what cosmopolitics is about, we must learn from the layperson’s activity; we must acquire expertise in dealing with complex issues not only from a local point of view but with a localization skill. Cosmopolitics implies connecting all concerns and actors and making them focus on one specic issue, as Noortje Marres (2007) puts it. This is why the only way to get into cosmopolitics is to become embedded in some situations either as an ordinary actor, or with the light equipment of ethnography. This compels us to


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hal-02365433 , version 1 (15-11-2019)



Dominique Boullier. Cosmopolitics: “To Become Within” – From Cosmos to Urban Life. What Is Cosmopolitical Design? Design, Nature and the Built Environment, Ashgate Publishing, 2015, 9781472452252. ⟨hal-02365433⟩
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