Interview with Bruno Latour from Figure/Ground

Original Available here

© Bruno Latour and Figure/Ground Communication
Dr. Latour was interviewed by Andrew Iliadis on September 24th, 2013

Bruno Latour is Professor at Sciences Po. Dr. Latour is a leading figure in sociology, anthropology, and science and technology studies, and he is the author of numerous books, including Laboratory LifeWe Have Never Been Modern, and Reassembling the Social. He holds many honorary doctorates and in 2012 he was awarded the Legion of Honour. In 2013, he gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh and in the same year he was awarded the Holberg Prize. His latest research project is an anthropology of the Moderns and includes a book, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (Harvard), as well as an interactive research website, www.modesofexistence.com

Your latest book, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, turns once again to the notion of the modern. I’ve heard you say this book is a positive approach. Can you explain what you mean in terms of positive and negative, and how this is a shift from your previous study?
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Participatory Budgeting Hits New York City | Pretty Good Piece in The Nation

Participatory Budgeting Hits New York City | The Nation.

Elizabeth Whitman has written a pretty good piece in the Nation about NY’s Participatory Budget.  What’s esp nice about it is that she considers critical perspectives pretty centrally.

Participatory Budgeting Hits New York City

April 16, 2012

community resource center to help residents find jobs and to give kids a place to hang out. Lighting in public parks to discourage gang activity. Security cameras. Computers and a smartboard for PS 269’s after-school program. These projects, chosen by residents but not yet implemented, have already come a long way since they were first proposed last fall, thanks to months of hands-on research and labor-intensive collaboration by residents of New York City’s 45th district, in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Residents transformed 278 rough ideas for community improvement into thirteen formal project proposals, and at the end of March, they voted for up to five projects they wanted to see funded. Three other New York City districts separately followed the same process.

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Food is Bad for You – Top Nutritional Conspiracies

Used to be that if you were going to have some crunchy people over for dinner you could safely bet on hippie dinner staples: beans, unspecified grain-plus stews, a brick  of homemade zucchini bread, slightly clumpy homemade yogurt, and maybe a delicious carob-and-rhubarb crumble.  Or if they were staying over, you could surely impress with your homemade granola and the yogurt from the night before you left out for that extra bit of zing.  Used to be.

Nowadays, if you invite the same people over and served them the foods above (btw. all actual foods, I can attest to having eaten all of them) you might be accused of attempting murder.  Between non-celiac gluten avoiders, specific carbohidrate dieters, caveman eaters, raw foodists, candida survivors, the world of health food has become much more complex, more arcane, more expensive to maintain, and judging by the battles on the internet, the battles between factions have become much more pitched.  Long gone are the more innocent days of buying bulk oats at your local health food coop.  One hardly ever meets a pescaterian anymore, and macrobiotics and food hygiene are practically forgotten.  And who remembers that Dr. Kellogg, today considered a grain-promoting arch-villain, was actually a pretty serious health food guru when he invented the breakfast cereal?

In that spirit, as we possibly approach end times, I thought I would map out the recent trends in the world of food-as-threat.  If there is one thing that’s distinctive about recent food theorizing is that it takes the earlier nostalgia for simpler times –  and makes it so much more extreme.  If my parents would have been happy to go pre-industrial in their food sourcing, today  the idea is to go back to before agriculture (the paleo diet), before fermentation (the anti-yeast diet), before fire (raw foods), or even, before homo sapiens (the Neanderthin).

There are lots of diets and theories out there – ones that worry about HFCS (High Fructose Corn Sirup), Gluten (the hidden killer), SCD (Specific Carbohydrates), but I chose to focus on just a few.  And, of course, there are very many great documentaries, some more “home-made” than others – and even a commercial or two – that explain the philosophies.   Have fun, but as always, be warned: you’ll probably not want to eat much after watching these.

Without further ado, my top five:

1.  Save the Cats, Save the World – How a Dentist went Primitive and his Friend killed many Cats for Your Benefit.

If you’ve not heard about “116 degrees,” you don’t know about raw-foodism.  Raw foods have been around a long time, technically since before fire.  But idea of Raw Foods, or that of being a RawFoodist, as a lifestyle/philosophy/diet can more or less be traced back to a renegate Dentist/Anthropologist, Weston Price, DDS.  Price, an advocate of the “Focal Theory of Disease” – namely that disturbances in your teeth would lead to bad health elsewhere in the organism, went on a world-wide trip in 1923 taking photos of the teeth and mouth of nonmoderns to test his ideas.  The conclusion he came to – that noble savages had good teeth, good health, and good attitudes, and this was due to diet – is (and was) pretty standard health food thinking, and not nearly as interesting as what happened later.

A follower of Price’s, Doctor Francis Pottenger Jr., took it to the next obvious step:  experimenting on hundreds of cats. He divided his cats into two groups: to one he only fed cooked foods; the other only raw foods.  He did this for a long time, and three generations later the differences were stark: the cooked food cats that survived (many died) were fat, dim-witted, sickly, and emotionally unstable.  The others were, well, like regular cats, but happy.  What a powerful analogy for the United States!  The video below is a fascinating documentary based on lots of original footage. (There is also an organization that keeps the -Pottenger legacy alive (ppnf.org).  And as an added bonus: Root Canals are part of a conspiracy.)

2. Beer is Liquid Poison by another name.

If RawFoodism is an early 20th century diet that is experiencing a comeback, nothing says 1970s to me like the “Yeast Connection.”   This is another story of a man running afoul of the medical establishment for discovering connections that, by virtue of powerful interests (see below) or laziness, current medical science chooses to ignore.  This time, it was Dr. William Crook, who in 1976 was not able to treat a patient complaining of a litany of nonspecific complaints – headaches, bad moods, tiredness.  What Crook figured out was that,  basically, fermented foods and foods that contain stuff that yeasts like – sugar, white bread, are the problem.  The “yeast connection” has had tremendous staying power, currently bouied by the chronic fatigue community. (There’s lots of information at their site: http://www.yeastconnection.com/)

For some reason, the videos about it are pretty organic; ie. not that slick, with a lot more of the genre of the testimonial and home-made how-tos.  I chose two that are pretty great for their own reasons.  The first, unfortunately, has low audio, but it’s worth leaning in close to the computer (watch out of the EMFs, though!).  It’s of a very earnest guy talking about his symptoms and some products, which he forgets to name, perhaps due to “brain fog” – which he discusses as well.  The second is of a robotic-voice telling you you should spit in a cup of water first thing in the morning to test for the tentacles of candida.

3. It’s the Grains, Stupid!  – Time to Go Primitive

Paleolythic-style eating – meaning a diet without grains, legumes, and dairy, is presumably how our ancestors ate before becoming agricultural.  But  its modern incarnation is much more recent – it is a sort of post-Atkins phenomenon.  Here, there is a renegade GI doctor in Sweeden who came up with this kind.   It belongs in the camp of ultra-macho diets – no sissy tofu dogs or rice here.   There are more than one sposkesperson, but, the author of Neanderthin (see http://www.everydiet.org/diet/neanderthin), seems to have worked hard to corner the market. This video is of a commercial for a line of primitive convenience foods (no joke!).

4. Cheese is actually cultured Phlegm  (the Dairy Threat)

This is a pretty specific dietary theory, one that links lots of modern ailments to our addiction to liquid crack, ie. milk.  I’m not much of a milk person, but these videos will make you think twice about cheese – you know, the cultured product of some secretions full of germs and chemicals.  For me the best part of the video below is halfway through, when there is tunnel effect, with ailments flying toward you.

5. The Illuminati wants you eat hamburgers:

Lots of these theories blame the industrial-agricultural complex for making you addicted to their “foods.”  If you think about it, and lots of people have, it’s a pretty nasty conspiracy, you, walking around like an idiot in the middle aisles of the supermarket getting your pop-tart fix, feeding the nasty bugs in your insides while promoting the interests of the ultra-powerful.  Who, in the world, would be so devious as to set that up, except perhaps, the illuminati…

International Conference on Participatory Budgeting celebrates US Processes

Now in our second day, the first (?) international conference on Participatory Budgeting on US soil drew many of the names associated with international processes, like Yves Cabbanes, Jez Hall, and  Giovanni Allegretti.  Brazilian representatives have included Pedro Pontual (representing the Federal Government), Tarson Nuñez (of the state government of Rio Grande do Sul), and Cezar Busatto, from Porto Alegre.   The event has included debates, presentations, and roundtables, but for most people the main attraction will be observing the voting process of New York’s PB later on today, March 31st.   The processes under way in the US – in Chicago and New York, have been the main attractions, but several organizers and activists from around the US have been on hand to discuss ongoing campaigns.   These include ongoing efforts from Greensboro (NC), New Orleans, Boston, Springfield (MA), Vallejo (CA), Boston, and Oakland.  The Right to the City Network – one of the co-sponsors of the event, discussed its national strategy to help promote as many as 3 more PB processes over the next couple of years.  Is another US, after all, possible??