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Introduction

Science/technology as politics by other means

Simone Abram

This article introduces a series of ideas about the categories of science and politics, by way of actor network theory, Gell's theories of index and agency, and governmentality studies. It explores the ways in which science has become a discursive element in contemporary government, and examines the tensions between the purifying categorizations of politics and science, and the re-embedding (or hybridizing) of science into national political discourse. What emerges is a series of practices by which science is nationalized, domesticating the ideal of a generalized science into localized political debates at both national and sub-national levels, practices which may be transformed at national boundaries. While we acknowledge that science in practice is not abstract or generalizable (since it must engage with a world which is not abstracted), it is the abstracting and purifying work attributed to science which makes it attractive as a political alibi for particular political projects. Rather than seeing science as politics by other means, perhaps we should be examining the creation of a rehybridized science-politics.

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Benoît Godin

Our present understanding of innovation is closely linked to science and research on the one hand and economy and industry on the other. It has not always been so. Back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the concept was mainly used in religious and political discourses. In these contexts, actors used it in a pejorative sense. Innovation, imagined as a radical transformation, was considered a peril to the established social order. Such was natural philosophers’ understanding. This article documents Francis Bacon’s work as an eminent example of such a representation. To Bacon, natural philosophy and innovation are two distinct spheres of activity. It is documented that Bacon’s uses of the concept of innovation are found mainly in political, legal, and moral writings, not natural philosophy, because to Bacon and all others of his time, innovation is poli tical.

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Believed Belief

Science/Religion versus Sukuma Magic

Koen Stroeken

Typically, magic takes no stance against the socialized beliefs that determine it, in contrast with both science and modern religion, which, in the face of doubt, assert the truth-value of their propositions against such determination. In other words, science and religion engage in 'believed belief'. Their aversion to magical belief is the one thing they can agree on. Believed beliefs produce convictions of truth sufficiently intense to base actions on, such as the killing of someone identified as a witch. Ethnography on Sukuma healing allows us to distinguish this experience of the witch from that of oracles and magical remedies. While research in terms of belief(s) tends to oppose cultures, an approach based on experiential structures links up seemingly distinct practices from different cultures, while differentiating seemingly similar practices within a culture.

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Raymond Boudon

This is an essay – along with another, by Frank Pearce – on The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim (2005). The collection is heterogeneous, and good in parts. But there are also basic themes, driven by the concerns of the editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Alexander – especially with a 'cultural turn' in how Durkheim is interpreted. Accordingly, a major criticism is that Durkheim's 'culturalism' isn't a relativistic 'culturalism', but looks for universals. His work conjugates the contextual and the universal. It also conjugates the rational and the emotional, in a continuation rather than a radical break with Kant. But it is above all in a commitment to science, and to a search for explanation through intelligible connections in the underlying dynamics of social life. Accordingly, another major criticism is not only the collection's tendency to downplay reason, but a sort of black hole in which it fails to tackle Durkheim's very idea of a social science.

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Exhibitions as Research

Displaying the Technologies That Make Bodies Visible

Anita Herle

Drawing on a recent exhibition, Assembling Bodies: Art, Science and Imagination, at the University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), this article argues that curatorial techniques, involving a sustained engagement with objects, can play a vital role in anthropological research. Processes involved in the creation and reception of the exhibition facilitated the investigation of how bodies are composed, known, and acted upon in different times, places, and disciplinary contexts. Assembling Bodies attempted to transcend the dualism of subject and object, people and things, by demonstrating how different technologies for making bodies visible bring new and oft en unexpected forms into focus. Processes of exploration and experimentation continued after the exhibition opened in the discussions and activities that the displays stimulated, and in the reflections and ideas that visitors took away.

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Werner Krauss, Mike S. Schäfer and Hans von Storch

This special symposium grew out of a workshop held in Hamburg in 2011 (Krauss and von Storch 2012) and of a long-term interest in climate research as post-normal science. A decade earlier, Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch (1999) stated that the management of uncertainty and its extension into the political and social realm make climate science a case for post-normal science. Interpreting a survey among German and American climate scientists, they suggested that scientific policy advice is the result of both scientific knowledge and normative judgment.

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Peter Katz

This special issue of Critical Survey explores the reciprocal relationships between Victorian literature and Victorian science – both the representation of science in literature, and the appearance of the literary within scientific discourse. Recent trends in historicism inspire this collection to contextualise Victorian literature and culture through Victorian understandings of bodies. These critics rightfully begin from the assumption that only once we understand Victorian bodies as Victorians might have understood them can we theorise historical bodies as sites integral to the legitimisation of flows of cultural power: capitalism, imperialism, heteronormativity, and beyond.

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In Defence of Social Science

U.K. 2015 – A Review of the 2015 CfSS Report 'The Business of People: The Significance of Social Science over the Next Decade'

Natali Valdez

In 1954, C. Dollard wrote an article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology titled ‘In the Defense of Social Science’. In 1967, W. Grundy wrote another article in the journal of Social Studies with the same title. A report from the New York Times used the same title in 1985 to highlight how neglected the social sciences are in the American education system (Maeroff 1985). Most recently, in 2012 B. Maguth also draws on the same title to write an article examining the need to incorporate social sciences in STEM education. The list goes on and on; defending the social sciences across the spectrum of education has a long history in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Making a case for why the social sciences are vital and deserve recognition through funding is, unfortunately, not a novel campaign.

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David E. Long

In an ethnographic study set within a biology department of a public university in the United States, incongruity between the ideals and practice of science education are investigated. Against the background of religious conservative students' complaints about evolution in the curriculum, biology faculty describe their political intents for fostering science literacy. This article examines differences that emerge between the department's rhetorical commitment to improve science understanding amongst their students and the realities of course staffing and anxieties about promotion and tenure. Because tenure-track faculty are motivated to focus their careers on research productivity and teaching biology majors, other biology courses are staffed with adjunct instructors who are less equipped to negotiate complex pedagogies of science and religion. In practice, faculty avoid risky conversations about evolution versus creationism with religiously conservative students. I argue that such faculty are complicit, through their silence, in failing to equip their students with the science literacy which their own profession avows is crucial for a well-informed citizenry in a democracy.

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Oili Pulkkinen

Newtonian science and mechanics left an important imprint on the Scottish Enlightenment. Even though the usage of mechanical metaphors, especially that of a “state machine” per se, were rare in Scottish philosophy, its conception of the human, animal and political bodies as mechanisms that function according to regular principles, or laws, helped to shape many of the theories that have now become popular in various fields of Scottish studies. Most research in these fields focus on the conceptions of history related to theories of economic advancement. In this article the author suggests that the theories produced in the Scottish Enlightenment were also nuanced attempts to describe how historical mechanisms operate.