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An Inconvenient Expertise

French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française

Minayo Nasiali

In the 1950s, French shipping companies began to replace their old fleet of steamships with new diesel ships. They also began to lay off sailors from French Africa, claiming that the changing technology rendered their labor obsolete. The industry asserted that African sailors did not have the aptitude to do other, more skilled jobs aboard diesel vessels. But unemployed colonial sailors argued differently, claiming that they were both able and skilled. This article explores how unemployed sailors from French Africa cast themselves as experts, capable of producing technological knowledge about shipping. In so doing, they shaped racialized and gendered notions about labor and skill within the French empire. The arguments they made were inconvenient, I argue, because colonial sailors called into question hegemonic ideas about who could be modern and who had the right to participate in discourse about expertise.

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Carol Hager

Environmental movements became a major vehicle for promoting citizen participation in both East and West Germany during the 1980s. Their critiques of industrial society, however, reflected the different constellations of power in their respective countries. Movements in both East and West formed green parties, but their disparate understandings of power, expertise, and democracy complicated the parties’ efforts to coalesce during the unification process and to play a major role in German politics after unification. I propose that the persistence of this East-West divide helps explain the continuing discrepancy in the appeal of Alliance 90/The Greens in the old and new German federal states. Nevertheless, I also suggest that the Greens have accomplished their goal of opening technical issue areas—particularly energy—to political debate. This is currently working to enhance their image throughout Germany as champions of technological innovation and democratic openness in the face of climate inaction and right-wing populism.

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Environmental Expertise as Group Belonging

Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist

Most people would agree that environmental expertise is important in defining and handling environmental problems. Environmental policy is densely populated by scientific experts; national governments as well as international political organizations

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Zuzana Hrdličková

field trips to build their knowledge and inform future agendas and interventions. In this article I discuss the mutual relationship between expertise and the practice of field trips within institutions using ethnographic data from my research with

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Accounting for Loss in Fish Stocks

A Word on Life as Biological Asset

Jennifer E. Telesca

magistrates how the specialized experience of the mercantilist could be elevated to the status of expertise ( Poovey 1998 ). Indeed, such prominent theorists as Joseph Schumpeter, Werner Sombart, and Max Weber have long noted that double-entry bookkeeping is

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Dominic Boyer

This article offers a synthetic overview of the major opportunities and impasses of an emergent anthropology of experts and expertise. In the wake of the boom in anthropological science and technology studies since the 1980s, the anthropology of experts has become one of the most vibrant and promising enterprises in social-cultural anthropology today. And, yet, I argue that the theorisation and ethnography of experts and cultures of expertise remains underdeveloped in some crucial respects. The body of the article defines expertise as a relation of epistemic jurisdiction and explores the sociological and epistemological dilemmas emerging from research, that poises one expert (the anthropologist) in the situation of trying to absorb another regime of expertise into his/her own. With due appreciation for what the anthropology of experts has achieved thus far, I close with a manifesto designed to prompt a reassessment of where this research enterprise should go from here. I urge that we treat experts not solely as rational(ist) creatures of expertise but rather as desiring, relating, doubting, anxious, contentious, affective—in other words as human-subjects.

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Softly, softly

Comparative silences in British stories of genetic modification

Cathrine Degnen

Since the late 1990s genetically modified foods, crops, and products have provoked a great deal of controversy in Britain. This article does not challenge the presence of debate over genetic modification in Britain, but rather calls attention to public silences on genetic modification that have often been overlooked. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork in two parts of the north of England, I explore the ways in which these silences were not equally present across both fieldsites. I argue that this is partly due to the intersection of local histories with the ideological framing of genetic modification by the British government as a question of and for scientific expertise. I also explore how silence on the topic may be a form of what Sheriff (2000) has termed ‘cultural censorship’. Finally, I discuss the theoretical and methodological difficulties of studying and writing about silence, proposing that silences can importantly highlight issues of political and social salience.

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Cheryl Croshere

Along a mountainous stretch of Peruvian highway, the anthropologists Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox recount a conversation between highway engineers and their hotel caretaker that illustrates a needed shift in direction for the ethnography of roads and other infrastructures of transportation. In Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise, the two anthropologists convey the hotel caretaker’s concern that inexplicable and uncontrollable forces govern local mountains and sometimes claim the lives of drivers crossing high passes. “Even this house is haunted by ghosts,” she tells the engineers, who are staying with her as they conduct surveys to upgrade the highway. Are they aware of these forces, she wants to know, and do they believe in ghosts? The engineers laugh, and one speaks for the others when he says that no, he doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he does believe in mathematics.

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Personal and Professional Encompassment in Organizational Capacity Building

SOS Children’s Villages and Supportive Housing

Viktoryia Kalesnikava

Labor Union and the Department representatives insisted on redrawing strict, separating boundaries around the roles of mother and professional employee. In the process, the assignment of expertise fell squarely on the side of the employee, negating any

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Sezin Topçu

This article adduces evidence of the central role played by scientists in the 1970s and “lay persons” in the post-Chernobyl period in the production and legitimation of alternative types of knowledge and expertise on the environmental and health risks of nuclear energy in France. From a constructivist perspective, it argues that this shift in the relationship of “lay persons” to knowledge production is linked not only to the rise of mistrust vis-à-vis scientific institutions but also, and especially, to a change in the way they have reacted to “dependency” on institutions and to “state secrecy”. Counter-expertise is constructed as a politics of surveillance where alternative interpretations of risk are buttressed by a permanent critique of the epistemic assumptions of institutional expertise. The identity of “counter-expert” is socially elaborated within this process.