The Proof is in the Pudding - On ‘Truth to Materials’ in the Sociology of Translations, Followed by an Attempt to Improve It

Michael Guggenheim


What could it mean to use cooking as a medium or translation device for sociol-ogy? Why is the use of media other than writing so unusual in sociology, but not in other sciences? The sociology of translation has made the claim that sociology should stay true to its object. Rather than jumping into abstractions, sociology should translate its object step by step. I show, that if this holds, then the sociol-ogy of translation fails its own claim to what I call “truth to materials”, because in its practice it engages in jumps in media from objects, such as food, image or body, to text. Instead, I propose to take the issue of truth to materials more serious by engaging, as other sciences, more directly with the senses. What prevents the sociology of translation from doing so is a belief in mechanical objectivity that excludes all other forms of translation except texts. For the case of taste, this sug-gests to engage in cooking. In the second part of the text I provide an attempt to create such more nuanced translations in the form of a buffet that we cooked as comment to a symposium. Some of the issues that were discussed with the help of the buffet were new kitchen technologies, the relationship between the visual and the olfactory, and the relationship between knowledge and taste.

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