Positioning selves: Ethnographic challenges in science and society

Peter Taylor
In his 1990 essay, "Everyday metaphors of power," Timothy Mitchell analyzes the deep divide between persuading and coercing that runs through studies of power, and demonstrates that the metaphorical divide is itself a product of modern methods of domination. This seminar explores practices and understandings that attempt to subvert that divide and its analogs, e.g., representing vs. intervening, text vs. context, interpretation vs. engagement, mind vs. body. We take the lead from anthropologists who have reflected on the challenges of positioning themselves in their ethnographic work. We pay particular attention to my own field, studies of science and society, where textual and rhetorical reflexivity has had some impact, but practical reflexivity remains relatively underdeveloped. Positioning oneself in/through research on (and interventions into) the dynamics of science and technology could be as challenging as any area of scholarly engagement with human practices. But, in developing reflexive engagement in modern science and/or science studies, researchers will, I suspect, have to address these fields' own methods of domination.

Sequence of Topics

I. Introduction

II. Reflexive ethnographic practice

III. Practice and positioning in science & technology studies

IV. Repositioning practice

V. Student presentations and/or themes raised by students

Provisional reading list

(versions 10/27/94; sections to be subdivided; reading list to be filled out; selected chapters from books to be identified; incomplete references to be completed)

(I am grateful to Gary Downey, David Hess, Donna Haraway, Sharon Trawek, and Libby Wood for reading suggestions.)

Seminar 1. Positioning selves: Ethnographic challenges in science and society

I. Introduction

Mitchell, T. (1990). "Everyday metaphors of power," Theory and Society 19: 545-577.

II. Reflexive ethnographic practice

Bell, D., P. Caplan and J. Wazir. (Eds.) (1993). Gendered Fields: Women, Men, and Ethnography, Routledge.

Bhavnani, K.-K. (1993). "Tracing the Contours: Feminist Research and Feminist Objectivity." Women's studies international forum 16(2).

Briggs, C. L. (1986). Learning how to ask: A sociolinguistic appraisal of the role of the interview in social science research. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Burawoy, M. (1991). "The Extended Case Method, "in M. Burawoy et al. (eds.) Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Modern Metropolis. Berkeley, University of California, chapter 13.

Crapanzano, V. (1986). "Hermes Dilemma." In J. Clifford and G. Marcus (eds.) Writing culture,. Berkeley, University of California Press, 51-76.

Fischer, M. (1992). "Autobiographical voices (1,2,3) and mosaic memory," in K. Ashley (ed.) Autobiography and Post-modernism.

Geertz, C. (1988). Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Kent, L. (1992). "Fieldwork that Failed," in P. DeVita (Ed.), The Naked Anthropologist, Wadsworth.

Kondo, D. K. (1990). "The eye/I," in Crafting selves: Power, gender, and discourses of identity in a Japanese workplace. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 3-48.

Langness, L. L. and G. Frank (1981). "Methods," in Chandler and Sharp (Eds.), Lives: An Anthropological Approach to Biography.

Macleod, J. (1987). "Appendix," in Ain't no makin' it: leveled aspirations in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, Westview.

Marcus, G. and M. Fischer (1986). Anthropology as cultural critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Penley, C. (1992). "Feminism, psychoanalysis, and the study of popular culture," in L. Grossberg, C. Nelson and P. A. Treichler (Eds.), Cultural studies. New York, Routledge, 479-500.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York, Basic Books.

Treichler, P. A. (1991). "How to have theory in an epidemic: The evolution of AIDS treatment activism," in C. Penley and A. Ross (Eds.), Technoculture. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 57-106.

Tsing, A. L. (1993). In the realm of the diamond queen: Gender, power and marginality in an out-of-the-way place. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Whitehead, T. L. and M. E. Conaway (Eds.) (1986). Self, Sex, and Gender in Cross-Cultural Fieldwork, Illinois.

Whyte, W. F. (Ed.) (1991). Participatory action research. Newbury Park, Sage.

III. Practice and positioning in science & technology studies

Collins, H. M. (1984). "Researching spoonbending: Concepts and practice of participatory fieldwork," in C. Bell and H. Roberts (Eds.), Social researching: Politics, problems, practice. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 54-69.

Haraway, D. J. (1995). "Mice into wormholes: A technoscience fugue in two parts," to appear in G. Downey, J. Dumit and S. Traweek (Eds.), Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions on the Borderlands of Technoscience. Seattle, University of Washington Press.

Hess, D. (1992). "The New Ethnography and the Anthropology of Science and Technology." Knowledge and Society 9.

Hirschauer, Stefan. "The manufacture of bodies in surgery." Social Studies of Science 21 (1991): 279-319 and his commentary on composing this paper given at the 1991 meetings of the Society for Social Studies of Science (ms.).

Martin, E. (1994). Flexible bodies: Tracking of immunity in American culture from the days of polio to the age of AIDS. Boston, Beacon Press.

Rapp, R. (1988). "Moral Pioneers: Women, Men & Fetuses," Women and Health 13(1/2): 101-116.

Scott, P., E. Richards, B. Martin. (1990). "Captives of Controversy: The Myth of the Neutral Social Researcher in Contemporary Scientific Controversies," Science, Technology, & Human Values 15(4): 474-494.

Star, S. L. (1994). "Misplaced Concretism and Concrete Situations: Feminism, Method and Information Technology." GENDER-NATURE-CULTURE (Dept. of Feminist Studies, Odense Univ, Denmark), working paper no 11.

Traweek, S. (1994). "Bodies of evidence: Law and order, sexy machines, and the erotics of fieldwork among physicists," in S. L. Foster (Ed.), Choreographing history. Bloomington, Indian University Press.

Woolgar, S. (Ed.) (1988). Knowledge and reflexivity: New frontiers in the sociology of knowledge. London, Sage.

IV. Repositioning practice

(to be filled out)

Downey, G. and J. Rogers (1995). "On the Politics of theorizing in a Postmodern Academy." American Anthropologist(June).

Fish, S. (1989). "Anti-foundationalism, theory hope, and the teaching of composition," in Doing what comes naturally: Change, Rhetoric, and the Practice of Theory in Literary and Legal Studies. Durham, Duke University Press, 343-355.

Taylor, P. (1990). "Mapping ecologists' ecologies of knowledge," PSA 2: 95-109.

Taylor, P. J. (1994). "Building on construction: An exploration of heterogeneous constructionism, using an analogy from psychology and a sketch from socio-economic modeling.," Submitted to Perspectives on Science.

V. Student presentations and/or themes raised by students