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Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft honours French sociologist Bruno Latour

Munich, 11/30/2009

The Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft (Association of Friends of LMU Munich) has announced that its Prize for Cultural Achievement 2009 has been awarded to the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. The Prize, which is worth 25,000 Euros, will be presented at a ceremony at LMU Munich on February 8, 2010. In the citation, the jury states that “Bruno Latour is one of the most influential, intelligent and best known contributors to the field of Science Studies“. Like last year’s winner, the urbanist Mike Davis, Latour will give a seminar on his work for a selected group of junior researchers at LMU on the occasion of his visit to Munich.

Bruno Latour is regarded as an outstanding exponent of so-called actor-network theory, a sociological framework which is concerned with elucidating the significance and effects of scientific and technical innovations. Actor-network theory sets out to transcend the distinction conventionally drawn between nature and culture by replacing it with the concept of the interconnected network. Thus, society, for Latour, is not a static, abstract entity, but rather an unstable association of actors. In the sense used by Latour, an actor can be a human agent, a plant or an animal, or indeed any concrete object, because their various worlds impinge upon one another and cannot be treated in isolation. Society therefore always involves a melange of human agents and objects that are entangled with each other in collectives. According to Latour’s model, scientific and technological development is always the result of the linkage of individual components into networks. The essential role of the process is to connect the various components in such a way that they behave in a concerted, mutually compatible fashion.

Bruno Latour was born in Beaune/France in 1947. The son of a winemaker, he studied philosophy and anthropology, and received his doctorate from the University of Tours in 1975. He served as Professor of Sociology at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines in Paris from 1982 until 2006. He has also taught at the London School of Economics and is currently a Professor at the Sciences Po in Paris. His many publications include “We Have Never Been Modern“, “Making Things Public“ and “Reassembling the Social“.

The Prize for Cultural Achievement
The Prize for Cultural Achievement established by the Münchener Universitätsgesellschaft, which was presented for the first time in 2008, is intended to honour outstanding personalities in the fields of literature, art and other areas of the humanities, whose artistic or scientific work has had a broad impact on the public sphere. Last year’s motto was “The City of the Future – The Future of the City“, and the Prize went to Professor Mike Davis of the University of California at Irvine. The sociologist Davis is best known for his studies on social structures and urban development in Southern California.

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