2008, pp 57-77
Date: 30 Jul 2008

The Actor-Enacted: Cumbrian Sheep in 2001

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Eigure 4

It is a sheep. You can see the photo. But is it an actor? That is the question. Questions of this kind, questions about agency, are usually asked as part of a search for explanation. What is the origin of an event? It is as if the aim of scholarship was to write whodunits. Hidden in the background is a ‘structure’ ‘agency’ divide. Are the determinants of this, that or the other event located in existing social structures or do they lie in original, reflexive human beings?

Obviously a sheep is not a human being. This means that like many of the other contributors to this book, if we ask whether or not it is an actor we are starting to destabilise the structure-agency dualism. For whatever it is, a sheep is not reflexive in the way usually imagined by social science. We also start to erode another common feature of the structure-agency dualism, a distinction between mastery and being-mastered. Does a sheep exert mastery, does it control? Or is it simply being pushed ar