Andrew Pickering Former Senior Fellow

Andrew Pickering
October 2012 - March 2013


Andrew Pickering (born 1948) holds the Chair of Sociology at the University of Exeter. After achieving PhD's in physics (London University, 1973) and science studies (Edinburgh University, 1984), he was Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) until 2007. In addition, he was director of an interdisciplinary graduate program for studies of science, technology, information and medicine at the UIUC from 1987 to 2001. Pickering has held fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1984-85), the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1986-87), Princeton University (1993-94), the Guggenheim Foundation (1997-98), the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (2006-07) and, most recently, the Institutes for Advanced Study at the Universities of Durham (2010) and Konstanz (2011). After having moved to the University of Exeter in 2007, Pickering additionally was professor of sociology at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea from 2011 to 2012.

Dated from 2013

Fields of research

Science and technology studies; history, philosophy and sociology of science and technology; social theory; cybernetics; alternative forms of life, especially those spanning science, technology, the arts and spirituality. Current research: intersections between sciences and technologies that thematise an ontology of emergence and related projects in other fields including the arts, architecture, music, psychiatry, education, management, robotics, etc.

IKKM Research Project


My work in science and technology studies has led me into questions of ontology, of what the world is like, what sorts of entities make it up, how they relate to one another. The upshot of my studies of scientific practice has been an analysis centred on performance and worldly action (rather than perception, cognition, knowledge and representation). The key concept here is that of an emergent ‘dance of agency’ between people and things (or, more generally, within any multiplicity of heterogeneous elements). My recent work has focussed on different ways of organising this dance. Dominant approaches in modernity, including science and engineering, act to obscure it—aiming to bring it to an end, purifying the world and making it more dual by finding ‘islands of stability’ in the flux, ‘enframing’ in Heidegger’s terms. My current research focusses on worldly practices that, instead, foreground and trade upon such dances—poiesis. In particular, I am exploring classes of unconventional artworks that function as ontological theatre, staging in nonverbal and performative ways a vision of a decentred and emergent world—works that surrender a degree of control to the agency of nature, or that stage dances of agency with audiences/participants, or that, indeed, act on participants to transform inner states in a non-cognitive and non-aesthetic fashion. My interest here is primarily in contemporary Western art, but I am also interested in traditional East Asian artforms (bonsai, rocks, etc). These add useful breadth to the analysis and function as a direct link to nonmodern ontologies such as Taoism. As a counterpart to the work on art, I am also exploring nonstandard adaptive approaches to environmental management which also stage and exploit dances of agency, now as way of finding out about nature in the process of acting on it—a kind of performative experimentation in the wild. Again, my focus is on current environmental initiatives, but I am also interested in traditional and nonWestern approaches. This aspect of my project seeks to emphasise its real-world relevance, folding ontological considerations back onto our dealings with nature.



The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future, Chicago, IL, USA, University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Kybernetik und Neue Ontologien, Berlin, Germany, Merve Verlag, 2007.
The mangle of practice, University Of Chicago Press, 1995.
Constructing quarks, University Of Chicago Press, 1984.

Edited Books

with Keith Guzik: The Mangle in Practice: Science, Society and Becoming, Durham, NC, USA, Duke University Press, 2008.
Science as Practice and Culture, University of Chicago Press, 1992 (Italian translation: Scienzia come Practica e Cultura, Turin: Edizioni di Comunità, 2001; Chinese translation: Beijing, China Penmin University Press, 2007).
with Lowell Hargens and Robert Alun Jones: Knowledge and Society. Studies in the Sociology of Science, Past and Present, Vol. 8, JAI Press, 1989.


Ontological Politics: Realism and Agency in Science, Technology and Art, to appear in: Insights (Institue of Advanced Study, Durham University).
The Politics of Theory: Producing Another World, with some thoughts on Latour, in: Chris Healy Chris and Tony Bennett (eds): Assembling Culture, Routledge, 2011, p. 190-205.
Material Culture and the Dance of Agency, in: Dan Hicks and Mary C. Beaudry Mary (eds): Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 191-208.
The Dance of Agency, in David Cayley (ed.): Ideas on the Nature of Science, Goose Lane Editions, 2009, p. 81-91.
Ontologisches Theater: Gordon Pask, Kybernetik und die Künste’ [‘Science as Theatre: Gordon Pask, Cybernetics and the Arts’], in: Helmar Schramm and Ludger Schwarte (eds): Spektakuläre Experimente: Praktiken der Evidenzproduktion im 17. Jahrhundert, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006, p. 454-476.