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Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Emeritus Professor
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Hist, Rel St, Soc, SP&C
  • Sociology
  • john.law

Professional biography

Co-Director of ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) and Director of the Social Life of Method Theme within CRESC

Research interests

General Approach

I'm interdisciplinary in inclination. Part sociologist and part from STS (science, technology and society), I've worked with sociologists, philosophers, engineers, medical practitioners, geographers and students of STS. The world is interdisciplinary, and it demands an interdisciplinary approach of the kind being developed in CRESC.

I assume that the world is materially heterogeneous, a mix of the social, economic, material, human, 'natural', and technical. We need rigorous ways of thinking and studying these heterogeneous processes. That's why I've worked with actor-network theory and its successor 'material-semiotic' projects. ANT isn't the only way of thinking about heterogeneity. Different approaches are needed, and this is another CRESC strength. But, suitably modulated, material-semiotics is a useful toolkit (certainly not a theory!) for catching some of the important processes of social life.

I take it that the world is discursively heterogeneous. I'm fascinated and horrified by the exclusions of the social. Systems both depend on and Other the people, collectivities and realities that fail to fit. If there's an enemy here in addition to injustice then it is hubris. This means that in my research I go looking for gaps, aporias, and subaltern realities. Parts of my work draw on postcolonial sensibilities to imagine alternative knowledge spaces.

Finally, I'm concerned with the performativity of method. In different ways CRESC members are exploring the character of research methods in domains ranging from financialisation, to the digital modelling of cities, and the remaking of social science methods. There's a performative argument here. This is that methods tend to produce – though often in unanticipated and contradictory ways – the worlds they claim to be describing. This is why I'm so excited about the CRESC 'social life of method' SLOM theme. This is a space for debating methods and the social in a wide-ranging interdisciplinary forum. I'm hoping that STS work will add to this conversation.

Collaborations

I'm lucky enough to work closely with colleagues in a range of disciplines and locations and I'm starting to work with new OU and CRESC colleagues. People I've worked with in the recent past include: Michel Callon (Paris CSI), Marianne Lien (Oslo), Wen-yuan Lin (Hsinchu, Taiwan), Annemarie Mol (Amsterdam), Ingunn Moser (Oslo), Vicky Singleton (Lancaster), John Urry (Lancaster), and Helen Verran (Melbourne).

Current Research Projects

Non-coherent methods: If the world is non-coherent, then what are the methods we need to know it, to enact it, and to live well in it? This is my core question in a continuing series of substantive projects.

People, technologies and animals: With anthropologists Marianne Lien and Gro Ween (University of Oslo) I'm working ethnographically on salmon farming on a project called 'Newcomers to the Farm'. How do animals and people interact? How are those interactions mediated by technologies? How are human beings and animals being remade? These are our core questions.

Biosecurity, agriculture and disaster: I continue to work on foot and mouth disease, and the UK response to the disease outbreak of 2001. What are the vulnerabilities of agricultural systems? And how can and such complex and (in the end) ramshackle systems be understood and controlled? These are my key questions.

Alternative knowledge spaces: This is work with Wen-yuan Lin (Tsing-hua University, Taiwan). What are the alternatives to systems of hegemonic knowledge? And how can we detect the Othering that goes with hegemony? These are our central questions.

Non-coherent method

John Law (forthcoming, 2010), 'Collateral Realities', Fernando Domínguez Rubio and Patrick Baert (eds), The Politics of Knowledge, London, Routledge.

John Law (2009), 'Assembling the World by Survey: Performativity and Politics', Cultural Sociology, 3, 2, 239-256.

John Law (2007), 'Making a Mess with Method', in William Outhwaite and Stephen P. Turner (eds), The Sage Handbook of Social Science Methodology, Sage: Beverly Hills and London, pp 595-606.

John Law, (2007) 'Pinboards and Books: Learning, Materiality and Juxtaposition', in David Kritt and Lucien T. Winegar (eds.) Education and Technology: Critical Perspectives, Possible Futures, Lanham: Maryland, pp 125-150.

John Law (2004), 'And if the Global Were Small and Non-Coherent? Method, Complexity and the Baroque', Society and Space, 22, 13-26.

People, technologies and animals

Marianne Lien and John Law (forthcoming 2010), 'Emergent Aliens': On Salmon, Nature and Their Enactment', Ethnos.

Law, John and Mol, Annemarie (forthcoming 2010), 'Veterinary realities: what is foot and mouth disease?' Sociologia Ruralis.

John Law (forthcoming, 2010), 'Care and Killing: Tensions in Veterinary Practice', in Annemarie Mol, Ingunn Moser and Jeannette Pols (eds), Care in Practice: on Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms, Transcript, Bielefeld, pp. 57-69.

John Law & Vicky Singleton (2009), 'A Further Species of Trouble?', Martin Doering & Brigitte Nerlich (eds), From Mayhem to Meaning: The Cultural Meaning of the 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK, Manchester, pp. 229-242.

John Law and Annemarie Mol (2008), 'The Actor-Enacted: Cumbrian Sheep in 2001' Lambros Malafouris & Carl Knappett, Material Agency: Towards a Non-Anthropocentric Approach, Springer, pp. 55-77.

Law, John (2008), 'Practising Nature and Culture: an Essay for Ted Benton', in Sandra Moog and Rob Shields (eds), Nature, Social Relations and Human Needs: Essays in Honour of Ted Benton, London: Palgrave, pp 65-82.

Biosecurity, Agriculture and Disaster

John Law and Annemarie Mol (2008), 'Globalisation in Practice: On the Politics of Boiling Pigswill', Geoforum, 39: (1), 133-143.

John Law (2008), 'Culling, Catastrophe and Collectivity', Distinktion, 16, 61-76.

John Law (2006), 'Disaster in Agriculture, or Foot and Mouth Mobilities', Environment and Planning A, 38, 227-239.

Andrew Smith, Catherine Wild and John Law (2005), 'The Barrow-in-Furness legionnaires' outbreak: qualitative study of the hospital response and the role of the major incident plan', Emergency Medicine Journal, 22 (2005), 251-255.

Alternative knowledge spaces

John Law and Wen-yuan Lin (submitted), 'Cultivating Disconcertment'.

Other publications

John Law, (in press, 2010), 'The Materials of STS', Dan Hicks & Mary Beaudry (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies, OUP, pp. 171-186.

John Law (2008), 'On STS and Sociology', The Sociological Review, 56, 4, 623-649.

John Law (2008), 'Actor-Network Theory and Material Semiotics', in Bryan S. Turner, The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory 3rd Edition, Blackwell, pp. 141-158.

Michel Callon and John Law (2005), 'On Qualculation, Agency and Otherness', Society and Space, 23, 717-733.

John Law and John Urry (2004), 'Enacting the Social', Economy and Society, 33, 3, 390-410.

Annemarie Mol and John Law (2004), 'Embodied Action, Enacted Bodies. The Example of Hypoglycaemia', The Body and Society, 10, 2-3, 43-62.

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences
Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences

Publications

Slippery: field notes on empirical ontology (2013-06)
Law, John and Lien, Marianne
Social Studies of Science, 43(3) (pp. 363-378)
Contexts and Culling (2012)
Law, John and Moser, Ingunn
Science, Technology & Human Values, 37(4) (pp. 332-354)
Piaceri macchinici e interpellanze (2012)
Law, John
Tecnoscienza: Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies, 3(1) (pp. 95-118)
'Emergent aliens': on salmon, nature and their enactment (2011-03)
Lien, Marianne Elisabeth and Law, John
Ethnos, 76(1) (pp. 65-87)
Veterinary realities: what is foot and mouth disease? (2011-01)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
Sociologia Ruralis, 51(1) (pp. 1-16)
The explanatory burden: an essay on Hugh Raffles’ Insectopedia (2011)
Law, John
Cultural Anthropology, 26(3) (pp. 485-510)
Cultivating disconcertment (2010-12)
Law, John and Lin, Wen-yuan
Sociological Review, 58(s2) (pp. 135-153)
Seeing like a survey (2009-07)
Law, John
Cultural Sociology, 3(2) (pp. 239-256)
On sociology and STS (2008-11-24)
Law, John
The Sociological Review, 56(4) (pp. 623-649)
Globalisation in practice: on the politics of boiling pigswill (2008-01)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
Geoforum, 39(1) (pp. 133-143)
El Actor-actuado: la oveja de la Cumbria en 2001 (2008)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
Política y sociedad, 45(3) (pp. 75-92)
Culling, catastrophe and collectivity (2008)
Law, John
Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 16 (pp. 61-76)
Ob’ekty i Prostranstva (2006)
Law, John
Sociologicheskoe Obozrenie, 5(1) (pp. 31-43)
Disaster in agriculture: Or foot and mouth mobilities (2006)
Law, John
Environment and Planning A, 38(2) (pp. 227-239)
Fluids or flows? Information and qualculation in medical practice (2006)
Moser, Ingunn and Law, John
Information Technology & People , 19(1) (pp. 55-73)
Mapas o Pinboards. Re-construyendo la realidad en un espacio sin coordenadas preestablecidas. Una entrevista con John Law (2006)
Fressoli, Mariano; Lalouf, Alberto; González Korzeniewski, Manuel and Law, John
Redes, 12(24) (pp. 91-113)
On qualculation, agency, and otherness (2005)
Callon, Michel and Law, John
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(5) (pp. 717-733)
The Barrow-in-Furness legionnaires' outbreak: qualitative study of the hospital response and the role of the major incident plan (2005)
Smith, A. F.; Wild, C. and Law, J.
Emergency Medicine Journal, 22(4) (pp. 251-255)
Object lessons (2005)
Law, John and Singleton, Vicky
Organization, 12(3) (pp. 331-355)
Boundary Variations: An introduction (2005)
Mol, Annemarie and Law, John
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(5) (pp. 637-642)
Enacting the social (2004-08)
Law, John and Urry, John
Economy and Society, 33(3) (pp. 390-410)
Embodied action, enacted bodies: the example of hypoglycaemia (2004)
Mol, Annemarie and Law, John
Body & Society, 10(2-3) (pp. 43-62)
And if the global were small and noncoherent? Method, complexity, and the baroque (2004)
Law, John
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22(1) (pp. 13-26)
Introduction: absence - presence, circulation, and encountering in complex space (2004)
Callon, Michel and Law, John
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22(1) (pp. 3-11)
Severe acute respiratory syndrome: lessons may be learnt from the outbreak of legionnaires' disease in Barrow in Furness (2003-06-21)
Smith, Andrew; Wild, Catherine and Law, John
British Medical Journal, 326(21 June) (p 1396)
Vtělené jednání, zjednávaná těla: Příklad hypoglykémie (Embodied action, enacted bodies: The example of hypoglycaemia) (2003)
Mol, Annemarie and Law, John
Biograf, 31
Objects and spaces (2002)
Law, John
Theory, Culture & Society, 19(5-6) (pp. 91-105)
O "depois" da teoria do actor-rede: complexidade, nomeação e topologia (2002)
Law, John
Sociedade e Cultura, 16(1-2) (pp. 57-70)
Situating technoscience: An inquiry into spatialities (2001)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 19(5) (pp. 609-621)
Manažer a jeho moci (2000)
Law, John
Biograf, 22
Performing technology's stories: On social constructivism, performance, and performativity (2000)
Law, John and Singleton, Vicky
Technology and Culture, 41(4) (pp. 765-775)
Aircraft Stories: Decentering the Object in Technoscience (2002)
Law, John
ISBN : 822328240 | Publisher : Duke University Press | Published : Durham, North Carolina
Reality failures (2012)
Law, John
In: Passoth, Jan-Hendrik; Peuker, Birgit and Schillmeier, Michael eds. Agency without Actors? New Approaches to Collective Action. Routledge Advances in Sociology (58) (pp. 146-160)
ISBN : 9780415603423 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon and New York
Pinnwänder und Bücher (2011-10)
Law, John
In: Balke, Friedrich; Muhle, Maria and von Schoning, Antonia eds. Die Wiederkehr der Dinge (pp. 21-45)
ISBN : 978-3-86599-146-1 | Publisher : Kulturverlag Kadmos | Published : Berlin
Collateral realities (2011-07-01)
Law, John
In: Dominguez Rubio, Fernando and Baert, Patrick eds. The Politics of Knowledge (pp. 156-178)
ISBN : 978-0-415-49710-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie und materiale Semiotik (2011)
Law, John
In: Conradi, Tobias; Derwanz, Heike and Muhle, Florian eds. Strukturentstehung durch Verflechtung: Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie(n) und Automatismen (pp. 21-49)
ISBN : 978-3770552207 | Publisher : Fink Verlag | Published : Paderborn
The Greer-Bush test: on politics in STS (2010-12)
Law, John
In: Akrich, Madeleine; Barthe, Yannick; Muniesa, Fabian and Mustar, Phillippe eds. Débordements: Mélanges offerts à Michel Callon (pp. 296-281)
ISBN : 9782911256387 | Publisher : Ecole des Mines | Published : Paris
The materials of STS (2010)
Law, John
In: Hicks, Dan and Beaudry, Mary eds. The Oxford Handbook of Material Cultural Studies (pp. 171-186)
ISBN : 9780199218714 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford
Care and killing: tensions in veterinary practice (2010)
Law, John
In: Mol, Annemarie; Moser, Ingunn and Pols, Jeannette eds. Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes and Farms (pp. 57-69)
ISBN : 9783837614473 | Publisher : Transcript | Published : Bielefeld
Disaster: a further species of trouble? Disaster and narrative (2009-07)
Law, John and Singleton, Vicky
In: Döring, Martin and Nerlich, Brigitte eds. The Social and Cultural Impact of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK in 2001: Experiences and Analyses (pp. 229-242)
ISBN : 9780719077005 | Publisher : Manchester University Press | Published : Manchester
Actor-network theory and material semiotics (2008)
Law, John
In: Turner, Bryan S. ed. The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, 3rd Edition (pp. 141-158)
ISBN : 9781405169004 | Publisher : Blackwell | Published : Oxford
The actor-enacted: Cumbrian sheep in 2001 (2008)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
In: Knappett, Carl and Malafouris, Lambros eds. Material Agency: Towards a Non-Anthropocentric Approach (pp. 57-78)
ISBN : 978-0-387-74710-1 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Dusseldorf
Practising nature and culture: An essay for Ted Benton (2008)
Law, John
In: Moog, Sandra and Shields, Rob eds. Nature, Social Relations and Human Needs: Essays in Honour of Ted Benton (pp. 65-82)
ISBN : 9780230201156 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : London
And if the global were small and non-coherent? Method, complexity and the baroque (2008)
Law, J.
In: Hillier, Jean and Healey, Patsy eds. Contemporary Movements in Planning Theory: Critical Essays in Planning Theory: Volume 3 (pp. 487-500)
ISBN : 978-0-7546-2728-9 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Aldershot
Making a mess with method (2007)
Law, John
In: Outhwaite, William and Turner, Stephen P. eds. The Sage Handbook of Social Science Methodology (pp. 595-606)
ISBN : 9781412901192 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London
Pinboards and books: Learning, materiality and juxtaposition (2007)
Law, John
In: Kritt, David and Winegar, Lucien T. eds. Education and Technology: Critical Perspectives, Possible Futures. Lanham, Maryland (pp. 125-150)
ISBN : 739113712 | Publisher : Lexington Books
Embodied action, enacted bodies. The example of hypoglycaemia (2007)
Mol, Annemarie and Law, John
In: Burri, Regula Valérie and Dumit, Joseph eds. Biomedicine as Culture: Instrumental Practices, Technoscientific Knowledge, and New Modes of Life (pp. 87-107)
ISBN : 415957982 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
Good passages, bad passages (2007)
Law, John and Moser, Ingunn
In: Asdal, Kristin; Brenna, Brita and Moser, Ingunn eds. Technoscientific cultures: The Politics of Interventions (pp. 157-178)
Publisher : Abstrakt Forlag | Published : Oslo
Networks, relations, cyborgs: on the social study of technology (2006)
Law, John
In: Read, Stephen and Pinilla, Camilo eds. Visualizing the Invisible: Towards an Urban Space. Spacelab (pp. 84-97)
ISBN : 9085940036 | Publisher : Techne Press | Published : Amsterdam
Disaster in agriculture: or foot and mouth mobilities (2006)
Law, John
In: Červinková, Alice and Šaldová, Kateřina eds. Science Studies Opens the Black Box: Spring School of Science Studies Proceedings (pp. 65-83)
ISBN : 8073300834 | Publisher : Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic | Published : Prague
Technik und heterogenes Engineering: der Fall der portugiesischen Expansion (2006)
Law, John
In: Belliger, Andréa and Krieger, David J. eds. ANThology: ein einfürendes Handbuch zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie (pp. 213-236)
ISBN : 3899424794 | Publisher : transcript Verlag | Published : Berlin
Monster, Maschinen und soziotechnische Beziehungen (2006)
Law, John
In: Belliger, Andréa and Krieger, David J. eds. ANThology: ein einfürendes Handbuch zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie (pp. 343-368)
ISBN : 3-89942-479-4, 978-3-89942-479-9 | Publisher : transcript Verlag | Published : Berlin
Notizen zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie: Ordnung, Strategie und Heterogenität (2006)
Law, John
In: Belliger, Andréa and Krieger, David J. eds. ANThology: Ein einfürendes Handbuch zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie (pp. 429-446)
ISBN : 3-89942-479-4 | Publisher : transcript Verlag | Published : Berlin
Leben und Sterben eines Flugzeugs: ein Netzwerkanalyse technischen Wandels (2006)
Law, John and Callon, Michel
In: Belliger, Andréa and Krieger, David J. eds. ANThology: ein einführendes Handbuch zur Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie (pp. 447-482)
ISBN : 3-89942-479-4 | Publisher : transcript Verlag | Published : Berlin
Allegory and its others (2003)
Law, John and Singleton, Vicky
In: Nicolini, D.; Gherardi, S. and Yanow, D. eds. Knowing in Organizations: A Practice Based Approach (pp. 225-254)
Publisher : M. E. Sharp | Published : New York
‘Making voices’: new media technologies, disabilities, and articulation (2003)
Moser, Ingunn and Law, John
In: Liestøl, Gunnar; Rasmussen, Terje and Morrison, Andrew eds. Innovation: Media, Methods and Theories (pp. 491-520)
Publisher : MIT Press | Published : Cambridge, MA
Local entanglements or utopian moves: an inquiry into train accidents (2002)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
In: Parker, Martin ed. Utopia and Organization. Sociological Review Monograph Series (pp. 82-105)
ISBN : 9781405100724 | Publisher : Blackwell Publising | Published : Oxford
On hidden heterogeneities: complexity, formalism and aircraft design (2002)
Law, John
In: Law, John and Mol, Annemarie eds. Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices (pp. 116-141)
ISBN : 9780822328469 | Publisher : Duke University Press | Published : Durham, NC
Complexities: an introduction (2002)
Mol, Annemarie and Law, John
In: Law, John and Mol, Annemarie eds. Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices. Science & Cultural Theory (pp. 1-22)
ISBN : 822328461 | Publisher : Duke University Press | Published : Durham, NC
Economics as interference (2002)
Law, John
In: Du Gay, Paul and Pryke, Michael eds. Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life (pp. 23-40)
ISBN : 9780761959922 | Publisher : Sage | Published : London and Beverly Hills
Maskinelle Lyster og Interpellasjoner (2001)
Law, John
In: Asdal, Kristin; Brenna, Brita and Moser, Ingunn eds. Teknovitenskapelige Kulturer (pp. 225-249)
ISBN : 9788243001237 | Publisher : Spartacus | Published : Oslo
Cyborgs (2001)
Moser, Ingunn and Law, John
In: Smelser, Neil J. and Baltes, Paul B. eds. International Encyclopaedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 3202-3204)
ISBN : 9780080430768 | Publisher : Elsevier | Published : Amsterdam
Materialities, spatialities, globalities (2000-12)
Law, John and Hetherington, Kevin
In: Bryson, John; Daniels, Peter; Henry, Nick and Pollard, Jane eds. Knowledge, Space, Economy (pp. 34-49)
ISBN : 9780415189712 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK
Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices (2002)
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie
Law, John and Mol, Annemarie eds.
ISBN : 9780822328469 | Publisher : Duke University Press | Published : Durham, NC