Bruno Latour Tours Calhoun CZO

Article Type: 


Calhoun CZO
Buncombe Hwy Cross Keys, SC
United States
Start Date: 
Sunday, September 27, 2015 - 13:00

Prof. Bruno Latour is very excited by his visits to the US CZOs, first So. Sierra and Eel River during the summer of 2015 and most recently the Calhoun CZO, 21-24 Sept.  His 4-p paper at Jerome's Geochemistry meeting (Sept 2014) is still a landmark of creativity with regards the richness and broad importance of cz science.

A professional videographer recorded nearly every moment of Bruno's Calhoun-Duke visit over four days.  The Calhoun CZO partnered with Duke's Franklin Humanities Institute which gave us incredible leverage into the humanities scholars at Duke, nearly all of whom know of Latour's work.  We kept the conversation focused on Critical Zone science by emphasizing that Bruno was on a research trip to study Earth's critical zones and by calling the whole event, "The Education of Bruno Latour", in an ironic but serious way.

When we first planned Latour's visit to the Calhoun CZO, our interest was to have him speak about CZs with my colleagues at Duke.  His quick reply was "no lecture, I'm a student."  After a two day visit to Calhoun CZO, complete with stop at a rural southern BBQ, Latour visited Duke where he interviewed critical-zone scienitists, from modelers to hydrologists to ecologists, was featured at a PhD student reading group, and was hosted at the Franklin Humanities Institute's 2-hr lunch seminar-discussion-conversation, at which Richter introduced the Earth's critical zone concept, cz science, and CZOs, Bruno replied (though apparently this was not a lecture), and then onward we went with a question-answer session led by questioners who are part of Duke's new initiative in Environmental Arts and Humanities.  All of this is recorded and will be posted in a series of ways, and the video will demonstrate the immense amount of interest that this visit stirred up across the academy in the study of Earths Critical Zone!!

In sum, many of us were struck by Latour being one of the most remarkable intellectuals we have ever met.  He writes and speaks with a very special creativity, he understands and loves science (asking me for an explanation of redox chemistry over and over), he is incredibly welcoming of students, and though he can be brutally critical, his humor seems to be constantly near the surface.

When we ask the question, "how to help critical zone science 'go critical?'", one of the many ways required is to continue to work closely with Bruno Latour!

Attached is a photo of BL listening to Duke PhD student Zach Brecheisen describe his sampling of soil gases from the soil surface to 5 m depth.

Also attached are two papers by Latour, the 4-p piece he wrote for JeromeG's 2014 Paris Geochemistry Conference and a chapter from his book Pandora's Hope, which he sent to Duke for the audience to read so that questioning might not "drift into relativism."

Latour is very interested in visiting other CZOs to further his understanding and enthnography of critical zone scientists!!  JeromeG and DanR will be happy to get you in touch with Bruno if you would like to extend an invitation.

Dan Richter, Durham