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Agency Unshackled: The Origin of ‘Agency’ in Sociology, Identity, and Text

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Abstract:

What happens when agency becomes unshackled from identity? Who or what can have agency? As a response to the crisis of agency in media, this study is an exploration of agency as traced through a quick history of sociology. We begin with Althusser, however, it could be argued that there are proto-forms of agency in the work of Marx and Durkheim, as well as that of Gabriel Tarde (1888). Althusser’s notions of structure and agency also greatly influenced Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus. Later, Foucault described subjectivity in a tug-of-war with ubiquitous power. Thus, I trace the progress of agency as it emerges in relation to Bourdieu’s habitus and Foucault’s discourse. Judith Butler’s theory of performativity is also conceived as a radical form of agency. Extending the dislocation of agency and identity further, however, I explore the role of uncommodifiable anger (Artaud), and the breakdown of the individual voice in the work of Kierkegaard—the emergence of a “demonic writing machine” (Hodge, 2000)—in destroying identity. This broaches the question of text as agent divorced from identity. Can this question be reconciled with reference to the agency of objects in Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 2005)—companies, computer networks and texts themselves? How does Actor Network Theory relate to Rose’s (2007) technologies of government? How does the agency of non-humans compare to that of the cyborg (Haraway, 1989)? The discussion comes full circle to Tarde and the fact that he considered the problem of unshackled agency a century ago.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

agenc (94), social (36), ident (33), human (31), notion (26), tard (25), unshackl (24), butler (24), latour (21), radic (20), technolog (20), marx (20), societi (19), ant (18), power (18), haraway (18), angel (16), individu (16), write (15), sociolog (15), histori (15),

Author's Keywords:

agency, identity, Bourdieu, Foucault, Actor Network Theory, Artaud, Kierkegaard, demonic writing machine, performativity, habitus, Gabriel Tarde, Judith Butler, nihilism
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Name: International Communication Association
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MLA Citation:

Rodriguez, Mario. "Agency Unshackled: The Origin of ‘Agency’ in Sociology, Identity, and Text" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL, May 20, 2009 <Not Available>. 2017-09-11 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p301095_index.html>

APA Citation:

Rodriguez, M. G. , 2009-05-20 "Agency Unshackled: The Origin of ‘Agency’ in Sociology, Identity, and Text" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott, Chicago, IL Online <PDF>. 2017-09-11 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p301095_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: What happens when agency becomes unshackled from identity? Who or what can have agency? As a response to the crisis of agency in media, this study is an exploration of agency as traced through a quick history of sociology. We begin with Althusser, however, it could be argued that there are proto-forms of agency in the work of Marx and Durkheim, as well as that of Gabriel Tarde (1888). Althusser’s notions of structure and agency also greatly influenced Bourdieu’s concept of the habitus. Later, Foucault described subjectivity in a tug-of-war with ubiquitous power. Thus, I trace the progress of agency as it emerges in relation to Bourdieu’s habitus and Foucault’s discourse. Judith Butler’s theory of performativity is also conceived as a radical form of agency. Extending the dislocation of agency and identity further, however, I explore the role of uncommodifiable anger (Artaud), and the breakdown of the individual voice in the work of Kierkegaard—the emergence of a “demonic writing machine” (Hodge, 2000)—in destroying identity. This broaches the question of text as agent divorced from identity. Can this question be reconciled with reference to the agency of objects in Actor-Network Theory (Latour, 2005)—companies, computer networks and texts themselves? How does Actor Network Theory relate to Rose’s (2007) technologies of government? How does the agency of non-humans compare to that of the cyborg (Haraway, 1989)? The discussion comes full circle to Tarde and the fact that he considered the problem of unshackled agency a century ago.


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