Meanings lost and found: translating ‘sociotechnical’ for a Brazilian counter-hegemonic agenda

Levidow, Les (2021). Meanings lost and found: translating ‘sociotechnical’ for a Brazilian counter-hegemonic agenda. In EASST Review European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST), Munich.


Originating from actor network theory (ANT), the concept ‘sociotechnical network’ has appeared widely in academic literature and beyond. Through this process, various meanings have been lost and found in translation. As described here, it has been taken up for creating solidaristic alternatives to profit-driven patriarchal social relations, while also seeking to displace them. This is an overtly counter-hegemonic socio-political agenda (which remains rare in ANT case studies). As regards human-nature relationships, its EcoSol agenda abandoned ‘non-human actants’ from ANT. Instead it promotes Bem Viver, whereby agrobiodiversity complements socio-cultural diversity as mutual human constructs. Along those lines, the term ‘sociotechnical network’ has been appearing more widely in Brazil’s EcoSol-agroecology literature (e.g. Schmitt, 2020).

Beyond that agenda, the term ‘sociotechnical’ has undergone diverse usages and thus translations. Likewise other STS concepts have meanings which may be lost or found in translation. These conceptual translations warrant methods to identify divergent meanings, perhaps at once analytical and normative ones.

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