Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the loss of a Star

Susan Leigh Star passed away this week.
I greatly enjoy her writings, and am using this space to draw attention to her wonderful writing and to how such work continues.

In writing of Power, technologies and the phenomenology of conventions: on being allergic to onions (In A sociology of Monsters) Star brought to me an understanding of what it is to be a human being; a fractional state that defies easy classifications, one that makes multiplicity primary bringing with it concerns of power, of standards and of invisible work.

In analysing the under-described work of nursing, she introduced me metaphorically to the spaces on maps where others might just have written 'here be dragons' but in which she wrote of making silent work visible (or not). This has been a pivotal addition to the ethical approach taken within my Phd thesis. In Layers of silence, arenas of voice: The ecology of visible and invisible work she provided me with strategies to manage ethical tensions.

I love her writing, she includes a serious intent, but also a playfulness is evident, the dedication to the society of people who find interest in the boring things is a beautiful entry to an article that makes the yellow pages a fascinating read in The ethnography of infrastructure.

In enacting silence she began with a poem of Adrienne Rich, and here I repeat it:

'Cartographies of silence'

The technology of silence
The rituals, etiquette
the blurring of terms
silence not absence
of words or music or even
raw sounds
Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed
the blueprint to a life
It is a presence
it has a history a form
Do not confuse it
with any kind of absence
–Adrienne Rich, Cartographies of Silence

And tonight I re-listen to a presentation she gave on the stsmixtures website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/video/stsmixtures/star/
All invisibility is not bad, all silence is not bad... the ecology of visible and invisible is a relational concept and the same with silence.
Working around...sometimes involves secret acts...but its done...and it's needed...to get things done.


  1. this kind of blog always useful for blog readers, it helps people during research. your post is one of the same for blog readers.


  2. Anonymous7:47 PM


  3. Emily you are not welcome here. You are an automaton that solicits for academic cheating, please keep your links away from my blog. I dont want to have to turn on comment moderation just to avoid your ilk.

  4. Ailsa, this is a wonderful tribute to the work of Susan. I am not familiar with her writings, but just accessed the two articles you referenced. I look forward to reading about how her work inspired your own work.


  5. Hi Jeffrey, I am really happy to share her writings, and have just updated the link to the one on Layers of silence, you might find it really useful also.

  6. hi alisia,

    i like susan star's writing as well, and didn't have the opportunity to meet or listen to her.
    i would love to see the video you mentioned, but for some reason it is not available any more. do you have it? do you have other things about her, besides her academic writings?