Actor-Network Theory

Gunnar Thór Jóhannesson, Jørgen Ole Bærenholdt

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Abstract

Actor–network theory (ANT) is a theoretical orientation based on relational ontology. It originated in science and technology studies in the early 1980s and has from the start been preoccupied with the ways in which societal order is achieved and the role material elements and other nonhumans play in that process. Bypassing dualisms between humans and nonhumans has been the central line of ANTs contribution to the field of human geography. ANT proposes alternative understanding of actors, networks, and theory, which has caused critiques arguing that it is weak in studying cultural imaginations, power relations, and scale; however, during the last decade ANT proponents have explicitly addressed the political. ANT has moved into several subfields of human geography, such as economic geography, nature and the Anthropocene, tourism and experience, as well as urban assemblages and design. ANT proposes ontology that inspires relational geography, which has opened up for topological understandings of space. Importantly, it has contributed to elaboration of research methodologies within human geography underlining the significance of site specific studies, allowing for types of engagement that bypass the dualism between local and global or micro and macro approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
EditorsA. Kobayashi
Volume1
PublisherElsevier
Publication date2020
Edition2
Pages33-40
ISBN (Electronic)9780081022962
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Actant
  • Actor
  • Actor–network
  • ANT
  • Hybrid
  • Material relationalism
  • Material semiotics
  • Multiplicity
  • Network
  • Ordering
  • Ontological politics
  • Practice
  • Topology
  • Translation

Cite this

Jóhannesson, G. T., & Bærenholdt, J. O. (2020). Actor-Network Theory. In A. Kobayashi (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2 ed., Vol. 1, pp. 33-40). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102295-5.10621-3