Obligatory passage point

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The concept of Obligatory passage point (OPP) was developed by sociologist Michel Callon in a seminal contribution to actor–network theory: Callon, Michel (1986), "Elements of a sociology of translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay". In John Law (Ed.), Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge? London, Routledge: 196-233.

Obligatory passage points are a feature of actor-networks, usually associated with the initial (problematization) phase of a translation process. An OPP can be thought of as the narrow end of a funnel, that forces the actors to converge on a certain topic, purpose or question. The OPP thereby becomes a necessary element for the formation of a network and an action program. The OPP thereby mediates all interactions between actors in a network and defines the action program. Obligatory passage points allow for local networks to set up negotiation spaces that allow them a degree of autonomy from the global network of involved actors.

If a project is unable to impose itself as a strong OPP between the global and local networks, it has no control over global resources such as financial and political support, which can be misused or withdrawn. Additionally, a weak OPP is unable to take credit for the successes achieved within the local network, as outside actors are able to bypass its control and influence the local network directly.[1]

An action program can comprise a number of different OPP's. An OPP can also be redefined as the problematization phase is revisited.

In Callon and Law's '"Engineering and Sociology in a Military Aircraft Project" [2] the project management of a project to design a new strategic jet fighter for the British Military became an obligatory passage point between representatives of government and aerospace engineers.


  1. ^ John Law and Michel Callon (1994). "The life and death of an aircraft: A network analysis of technical change". In Wiebe E. Bijker and John Law. Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. pp. 42–46. ISBN 0262521946. 
  2. ^ In Star, S. L. (1995). Ecologies of knowledge: Work and politics in science and technology. State University of New York Press.