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Affiliative Objects

By Lucy Suchman


articles Abstract. Through the case of a particular organization devoted to technological research and development, this paper investigates how values of the ‘new ’ operate in what Appadurai (1986) has characterized as the social life of objects. Drawing on previous scholarship in anthropology and science and technology studies, I adopt the trope of the ‘affiliative object ’ to describe the relational dynamics of association (and disassociation) that characterize the identification of objects and persons. This perspective emphasizes the multiplicity of objects within the unfolding and uncertain trajectories of organizational life, as both problem and resource for organization members. The paper examines how ‘object-centered sociality ’ (Knorr-Cetina, 1997) is enacted as a strategic, but also contingent, resource in the alignment of professional identities and organizational positionings. Key words. identity; invention; materiality; multiplicity; object-centered sociality ‘The more adept the West has become at the making of copies, the more we have exalted uniqueness. It is within an exuberant world of copies that we arrive at our experience of originality. ’ (Hillel Schwartz, The Culture of the Copy, 1998: 212) This paper explores the affiliative powers of objects and their implications for organizational life. By affiliative powers I mean the ways in which objects are not innocent but fraught with significance for the relations that they materialize. 1 Conversely, because relations with objects simultaneously are relations of affiliation, a desire to differentiate ourselves from others often requires that we distance ourselves fro

Year: 2008
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