Dance of Agency

Andrew Pickering with his term ‘dance of agency’ helps us think about other ways of being in the world, a new perspective on being in the environment different from that of the conventional natural and social sciences.

His basic idea is that we can understand the world as built from consequential performative actions and reactions between people and things, the human and the nonhuman. “ Everything we need is there in nature already, and that we can latch onto it directly and performatively instead of going through long detours of cognition”. Agents here are all the small parts of the world of performances and becomings, by no means the center of it. We are agents, but so are rocks and stones, cats. “The world is full of agents which can interfere with one another consequentially but without any sense of control.”

In western cultures, ideas like ‘dance of agency’ has not very much appreciated. We tend to forget about emergence by adopting a hard realist interpretation of current beliefs and put scientific knowledge in the center. Communal life either might not be very well appreciated. The extend of possibilities for organizing ourselves differently producing another world that is systematically different than neoliberalism is not offered as an alternative in our western world. However, it is possible to see the reflections of the ‘dance of agency’ in other parts of the world.

In 2017, I have traveled to one of the most remote places in the Peruvian Andes and experienced living with Qero natives in this special location for a while. They are a tribe living above 5 thousand meters with very limited contact with the modern world. One of the more striking aspects of their lives is the way in which they interact with their environment. They live in balance and respect for all living things, through ‘Ayni’ (reciprocity, mutualism). It is based on the idea of constantly exchanging energy and the more you connect with and give to the world around you, the more you will receive. (for more information check )

I think their nonhuman centered, nature-based wisdom tradition would be a good example of how the ‘dance of agency’ can put one into right relationship and harmony with all living and nonliving things.