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Charming Worms

Crawling between Natures

Filippo Bertoni

Some anthropologists have argued that Euro-American culture is naturalist, anchored to the belief in a coherent, unitary universe in which natural laws operate. From a close ethnographic inspection, however, the allegedly naturalist sciences emerge as heterogeneous practices, engaging with complex and not quite coherent objects. Following one such object - an earthworm - allows me to show that the earthworm science that studies it has no univocal object, but rather one that is multiple. At the same time, scientists successfully engage in practices that seek to hold together the incoherent earthworm/s and the world/s in which it is/they are being practised. It is in this way that coherence may still be achieved. Exploring the gaps between multiple ontologies and coordinating practices allows for the emergence of a sharper, practice-attentive understanding of science and its naturalist achievements. If it is true that a single, unitary Nature is nowhere to be found, the analysis presented here shows how a transient, contingent, multiple, and - yet - still bound-together nature may result from careful coordination practices.

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Samer Alatout

Three elements dominated scholarship on Israeli water politics and policymaking in the 1950s: (1) the state is often taken to be a fully established actor since its inception in 1948; (2) Israeli water policymaking was dominated by geopolitical and regional concerns over security and access to shared water resources; (3) water was, and continues to be, a scarce resource. This article argues that these elements result in the depoliticization of Israeli water policies and offers three counterarguments. First, the totality of any state is an ever-illusive construct. Second, Israeli water politics had an internal dimension that has to be investigated in its own right. Third, scarcity did not acquire the status of a "fact" until the mid-1950s. In fact, the struggle over the notions of water abundance and scarcity was an essential part of working through the political conflicts over the meaning of Jewish subjectivity, the boundaries of the state, and its right to intervene in civil society.

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Transforming Participatory Science into Socioecological Praxis

Valuing Marginalized Environmental Knowledges in the Face of the Neoliberalization of Nature and Science

Brian J. Burke and Nik Heynen

Citizen science and sustainability science promise the more just and democratic production of environmental knowledge and politics. In this review, we evaluate these participatory traditions within the context of (a) our theorization of how the valuation and devaluation of nature, knowledge, and people help to produce socio-ecological hierarchies, the uneven distribution of harms and benefits, and inequitable engagement within environmental politics, and (b) our analysis of how neoliberalism is reworking science and environmental governance. We find that citizen and sustainability science often fall short of their transformative potential because they do not directly confront the production of environmental injustice and political exclusion, including the knowledge hierarchies that shape how the environment is understood and acted upon, by whom, and for what ends. To deepen participatory practice, we propose a heterodox ethicopolitical praxis based in Gramscian, feminist, and postcolonial theory and describe how we have pursued transformative praxis in southern Appalachia through the Coweeta Listening Project.

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Jochen Gläser and Grit Laudel

While several “grand narratives” have been developed to account for the impact of scientific things on scientific practice, there is still very little methodological support for comparative analyses of scientific things. The goal of our article is to sketch the methodological challenges involved in comparatively analyzing scientific things and including their properties in middle-range theories of scientific practice. Methodological challenges arise from the necessity to use scientists' accounts of scientific things, the dilemma between depth and breadth of comparative case-study approaches, and from the necessity to compare accounts of scientific things to each other as well as to social conditions of research. Since the dominant approaches to the study of scientific things avoid the middle levels of abstraction, we suggest using an approach based on a theory of action. Two examples from a recent study of conditions for scientific innovations illustrate our approach to the comparative analysis of properties of scientific things.

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Stefan Groth

Language and its relation to culture has been a topic of research in German Volkskunde [folklore studies] from the beginning of the discipline. While dialectological studies, linguistic specificities of local cultures and language in everyday life have been integral parts of Volkskunde for much of the first part of the twentieth century, the discipline saw a shift away from its philological elements towards a social science orientation in post-Second World War developments. During the last decades, the analysis of linguistic dimensions of everyday culture has been on the margin of scholarly activities in Volkskunde. Starting with a historic perspective on the role of language in the beginnings of the discipline, this article discusses the development and decrease of the study of linguistic aspects. It analyses the role of language in contemporary German Volkskunde both in theory and methodology, and offers perspectives on how the discipline could benefit from a renewed focus on linguistic dimensions of everyday culture.

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Natures of Naturalism

Reaching Bedrock in Climate Science

Martin Skrydstrup

By exploring the multiple natures of a naturalist cosmology within the empirical terrain of climate science, this article examines what remains of the nature-culture divide in the Anthropocene. While scientists are familiar with critiques of scientific realism and work within a repertoire of multiple natures, they also maintain the boundary between the epistemic object (climate) and the material object (ice). While for science studies, the main object of science is socio-material practices, such as ice core drilling, for the scientists this drilling is more of a theatrical performance for the public and the funders. I argue that the tension between science and science studies can be circumnavigated by a double move: remaining faithful to the ways in which scientists draw modern boundaries, but also eliciting their reflexive ways of dealing with multiple natures from within a naturalist cosmology.

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John Bendix and Niklaus Steiner

Although political asylum has been at the forefront of contemporary

German politics for over two decades, it has not been much discussed

in political science. Studying asylum is important, however,

because it challenges assertions in both comparative politics and

international relations that national interest drives decision-making.

Political parties use national interest arguments to justify claims that

only their agenda is best for the country, and governments argue

similarly when questions about corporatist bargaining practices arise.

More theoretically, realists in international relations have posited

that because some values “are preferable to others … it is possible to

discover, cumulate, and objectify a single national interest.” While

initially associated with Hans Morgenthau’s equating of national

interest to power, particularly in foreign policy, this position has

since been extended to argue that states can be seen as unitary rational

actors who carefully calculate the costs of alternative courses of

action in their efforts to maximize expected utility.

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Introduction

Postcolonial studies and postsocialism in Eastern Europe

Jill Owczarzak

The introduction to this special section explores the ways in which postcolonial studies contribute a deeper understanding of postsocialist change in Central and Eastern Europe. Since the collapse of socialism, anthropological and other social science studies of Eastern Europe have highlighted deep divides between “East” and “West” and drawn attention to the ways in which socialist practices persist into the postsocialist period. We seek to move beyond discourses of the East/West divide by examining the postsocialist context through the lens of postcolonial studies. We look at four aspects of postcolonial studies and explore their relevance for understanding postsocialist Eastern Europe: orientalism, nation and identity, hybridity, and voice. These themes are particular salient from the perspective of gender and sexuality, key concepts through which both postcolonialism and postsocialism can be understood. We thus pay particular attention to the exchange of ideas between East/West, local/global, and national/international arenas.