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Measuring the Sacred

Research Notes on the Use of Science by Adherents of New Spiritualities in Poland

Dorota Hall

The essay presents exemplary cases for the use of scientific accessories, such as a specialist vocabulary and sophisticated technical tools, in Polish holistic milieus. It analyses editorials published in the esoteric monthly Nieznany Świat, and refers to materials gathered during ethnographic fieldwork among vendors and customers of alternative medicine fairs and esoteric shops in Warsaw, as well as visitors to the Węsiory village, considered to be one of Earth's 'power places'. The work goes on the claim that references to science, and especially to various measurements, besides their legitimating function, appeal to sensitivity related to traditional folk religiosity. Therefore, the Nieznany Świat magazine might be considered a continuer of the folk tradition.

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David Mills and Julia Paulson

Recent research on doctoral education in the U.K. has revealed the increasing number and diversity of academic relationships that shape the lives of research students, and students' own role in activating, mobilising and maintaining these relationships. Higher education policy reforms promoting doctoral 'skills training', interdisciplinary communities, thematic centres and supervisory teams, all create new networks for students to negotiate. Often beneficial and supportive, this article explores the 'unmentionable' consequences of relationships that gradually go awry.

This study began as a project exploring the everyday experiences of doctoral students and early career researchers in the Social Sciences within the U.K. As the research unfolded, we began to encounter accounts of neglect, exploitation and denigration. While such stories have long been part of postgraduate life, their seeming persistence in the face of robust quality assurance and supervisory codes needs further exploration. We offer three portraits of difficult doctoral journeys to explore these 'unmentionable' experiences and explore whether they are linked to growing institutional and career pressures on academics to prioritise research 'productivity'.

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Gerrit K. Roessler

This article examines Ulrich Horstmann's science fiction radio play Die Bunkermann-Kassette (The Bunker Man Cassette, 1979), in which the author frames fears and anxieties surrounding a potential nuclear conflict during the Cold War as apocalyptic self-annihilation of the human race. Radio, especially radio drama, had a unique role in capturing the historical imaginaries and traumatic experiences surrounding this non-event. Horstmann's radio drama and the titular cassette tape become sound artifacts that speak to the technological contexts of their time, while their acoustic content carries the past sounds into the present. In the world of the play, these artifacts are presented in a museum of the future, which uses the possibilities of science fictional imagination and speculation to create prosthetic memories of the Cold War. The article suggests that these memories are cyborg memories, because the listener is a fully integrated component of radio technology that makes these memories and recollections of imagined events possible in the first place.

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Werner Krauss and Hans von Storch

Recent surveys show that the communication about climate change between science and the public is severely disturbed. In this article we discuss this problem in focusing on both regional climate services and other, local forms of knowledge. The authors suggest that climate science and its public services have to critically revise their own practices and to acknowledge other forms of knowledge about climate as constitutive. Based on approaches from geography and anthropology, the article first discusses the short history and "normal practices" of regional climate services and how they approach the public. Outlining the potentials and constraints of this concept, the article focuses on the friction, on "its openness to change as it rubs up against society" (Hulme 2007). The focus then shifts to local knowledge systems and how they deal with the challenges of a changing climate. In addition to the "extended peer review" as a new option for climate research in a post-normal setup, the authors discuss the possibility of an "extended knowledge basis," that is, the integration of different forms of climate knowledge with a special focus on regional populations.

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Sabine Weiland, Vivien Weiss and John Turnpenny

Ecological challenges are becoming more and more complex, as are their effects on nature and society and the actions to address them. Calls for a more sustainable development to address these challenges and to mitigate possible negative future impacts are not unproblematic, particularly due to the complexity, uncertainty, and long-term nature of possible consequences (Newig et al. 2008). Knowledge about the various impacts—be they ecological, economic, or social—policies might have is therefore pivotal. But the relationship between such knowledge and the myriad ways it may be used is particularly challenging. The example of policy impact assessment systems is a case in point. Recent years have seen an institutionalization of such systems for evaluating consequences of regulatory activities across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2008) and the European Union (CEC 2002). It is argued that, by utilizing scientific and other evidence, impact assessment has the potential to deliver more sustainable policies and to address large-scale global challenges.

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Ronlyn Duncan

The question posed in this article is how shifts in governance ushered in by the sustainability paradigm are reshaping knowledge governance. Drawing on constructivist theories of knowledge, I examine the tension between the sustainability mandate to open up knowledge making to local knowledge, and conventional science policy practice that would see it excluded. I present a water management case study from New Zealand's South Island region of Canterbury, where communities are involved in establishing catchment nutrient limits to manage land use and water quality. It is concluded that although local knowledge was embraced within the knowledge-making process, the pursuit of epistemic authority led to its recalibration, aggregation, and standardization. As such, it was stripped of its complexity. This research highlights the role of politics in anchoring the linear knowledge governance model in place and the challenge for supplanting it.

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The Art of Losing One's Own Culture Isn't Hard to Master, It's Obviation

Roy Wagner, Gregory Bateson, and the Art of Science Writ Large

Elizabeth Stassinos

Like Gregory Bateson, Roy Wagner leaves no heirs. This is not the curse of Souw, but the curse of original thinking. Like Bateson though, Wagner has bequeathed to a future anthropology a certain style of thinking about Others, an elegant way of dislocating the Western self from its routines, its kinships, its ego, its diaspora. In this paper, and as a student of Wagner’s at Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s, I hope to trace some of Wagner’s work through Bateson’s and to compare some of the habits of mind of these two ethnographers and theorists and relate these back to The Invention of Culture. If I seem to forget that text in places or re-start it in others, it is because I have tried to stay close to that topic that led both in such opposite (one could say complementary schizmogenic) directions, one to biological sciences, the other to science fiction. I section off observations on their ethnographic theory by using poetry to express shifts in topics for, at their best, Wagner and Bateson are poets of that extreme human condition so sought after by ethnographers, culture shock.

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Picking up the relay baton

Translating traditions in apartheid and democratic South Africa

Andrea M. Lang

This article reflects the particular construction of 'Culture' by a network of ethnographers, bureaucrats, politicians, and traditional leaders in South Africa. It analyzes the impact of this specific understanding of Culture during the apartheid years and in the new democratic dispensation using actor network theory (ANT) as developed by Callon and Latour. The essay also explores the establishment of the network in colonial times, examines its working method during the apartheid years, and queries the reasons for its survival and restrengthening after the dismantling of apartheid. Furthermore, the article deals with the popularization of the network's Culture credo and discusses some consequences of this special understanding of Culture and of how the government should preserve it.

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Elites et Histoire des Sciences en France

Le Cas des Chimistes de L’Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (CNRS), 1960–2000

Muriel Le Roux

Les chimistes des substances naturelles formèrent une communauté identifi able comme telle au cours des années 1960, moment où la discipline acquiert une autonomie. Relevant d’un domaine de recherche aussi bien académique qu’industriel, les personnels, suivant en cela l’évolution générale des métiers de la connaissance, sont devenus identifi ables comme chercheurs au cours de la même période. Si le mot même de chercheur employé pour défi nir le métier n’était pas dénué de puissance symbolique au début de la période, il apparaît que la situation présente une image inversée aujourd’hui. Une distinction s’est opérée entre lauréats et anonymes ; la distance s’est accrue entre le haut et la base de la pyramide professionelle imposant aux historiens de réinterroger la notion d’élite lorsque l’on cherche à écrire l’histoire des sciences du second XXe siècle.

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Léa Sébastien, Tom Bauler and Markku Lehtonen

This article examines the various roles that indicators, as boundary objects, can play as a science-based evidence for policy processes. It presents two case studies from the EU-funded POINT project that analyzed the use and influence of two highly different types of indicators: composite indicators of sustainable development at the EU level and energy indicators in the UK. In both cases indicators failed as direct input to policy making, yet they generated various types of conceptual and political use and influence. The composite sustainable development indicators served as “framework indicators”, helping to advocate a specific vision of sustainable development, whereas the energy indicators produced various types of indirect influence, including through the process of indicator elaboration. Our case studies demonstrate the relatively limited importance of the characteristics and quality of indicators in determining the role of indicators, as compared with the crucial importance of “user factors” (characteristics of policy actors) and “policy factors” (policy context).