Agency: The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge

Paul Kockelman, Asif Agha, Laura M. Ahearn, Vincent Colapietro, Marcel Danesi, Alessandro Duranti, Nick J. Enfield, Jeff Sugarman, Jean Pierre Warnier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

95 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Using a Peircean theory of meaning, agency may be theorized in terms of flexibility and accountability, on the one hand, and knowledge and power, on the other. In this theory, residential agency, which is closest to notions such as "power" and "choice," is the degree to which one can control the expression of a sign, compose a sign-object relation, and commit to an interpretant of this sign-object relation. Representational agency, which is closest to notions such as "knowledge" and "consciousness," is the degree to which one can thematize a process, characterize a feature of this theme, and reason with this theme-character relation. Agency, as a kind of social and semiotic facility, is thereby theorized as multidimensional, graduated, and distributed. This theory allows one to analyze, as concomitant phenomena, the longue durée processes that underlie relatively perduring institutions and the real-time practices that support relatively fleeting interactions. Finally, it highlights the theoretical and empirical terrain shared by linguistic anthropology, science and technology studies, political economy, and critical theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-401
Number of pages27
JournalCurrent anthropology
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007

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technology studies
critical theory
science studies
semiotics
consciousness
anthropology
political economy
flexibility
linguistics
responsibility
interaction
Object Relations
time
Political Economy
Theory of Meaning
Consciousness
Interaction
Linguistic Anthropology
Accountability
Interpretant

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

Cite this

Kockelman, P., Agha, A., Ahearn, L. M., Colapietro, V., Danesi, M., Duranti, A., ... Warnier, J. P. (2007). Agency: The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge. Current anthropology, 48(3), 375-401. https://doi.org/10.1086/512998
Kockelman, Paul ; Agha, Asif ; Ahearn, Laura M. ; Colapietro, Vincent ; Danesi, Marcel ; Duranti, Alessandro ; Enfield, Nick J. ; Sugarman, Jeff ; Warnier, Jean Pierre. / Agency : The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge. In: Current anthropology. 2007 ; Vol. 48, No. 3. pp. 375-401.
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Kockelman, P, Agha, A, Ahearn, LM, Colapietro, V, Danesi, M, Duranti, A, Enfield, NJ, Sugarman, J & Warnier, JP 2007, 'Agency: The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge', Current anthropology, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 375-401. https://doi.org/10.1086/512998

Agency : The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge. / Kockelman, Paul; Agha, Asif; Ahearn, Laura M.; Colapietro, Vincent; Danesi, Marcel; Duranti, Alessandro; Enfield, Nick J.; Sugarman, Jeff; Warnier, Jean Pierre.

In: Current anthropology, Vol. 48, No. 3, 01.06.2007, p. 375-401.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Kockelman P, Agha A, Ahearn LM, Colapietro V, Danesi M, Duranti A et al. Agency: The relation between meaning, power, and knowledge. Current anthropology. 2007 Jun 1;48(3):375-401. https://doi.org/10.1086/512998