Latour’s rehabilitation of the title ‘actor-network theory’ (including the hyphen) points to the parallels between the acronym ANT, the English word for the insect ‘ant’, and the work of those using ANT that resembles (or should resemble) the activities of ants. Whether one is favourably or negatively predisposed towards ANT and/or Latour, it is understandable to react to this about-turn with a wry smile, appreciating the skill of the manoeuvre but finding it also slightly underhand. The kind of reaction one has to a skilful magician or card trickster.
Like the cavalry in cowboy films coming over the hill to save the hero, an army of ants has now come to dispel any residual irony surrounding Latour’s rehabilitation of ANT. One of the lead stories on the flagship BBC Radio 4 Today morning news programme this morning concerned the invasion of Northern Europe by a new species of ant, Lasius neglectus. While the detailed sociologics of the effectiveness of Lasius neglectus as an invader are explained in more detail on the BBC website and the PLos One research article on which the news story was based and have to do with the sexual habits of the colony queen, one of the authors, Dr Sylvia Cremer, explained that in effect what made Lasius neglectus such an potent invader was its ability to propagate across rather within the boundaries of established social units. Who needs Big Brother when there are ants to watch? And what’s more, when ants have sex, it really matters!