nimamz Annotations

STS Beyond Academia (

Sunday, August 9, 2020 - 9:54am

Draft--Even though I am in agreement with the sentiment of going 'beyond academia', here I want to propose this norm as a point of contention. The reason for this is that going 'beyond academia' can be taken in two major ways which correspond to the difference between the STS reconstruction of scientific practice and the unsatisfactory classical image that got STS started in the first place. That is, we could take 'going beyond' as the old way of considering the academy as the place where academics withdraw from the world, are outside 'the field', do 'theory' instead of 'practice' (as if theorizing is not a kind of practice), and do 'intellectual', meaning disengaged, stuff that by themselves are devoid of value. If that is the assumption behind the demand for engaging outside academia, then that reinforces the image of science which science students are assailing for so long.

In that this demand has been institutionalized within evaluating and funding procedures of the knowledge economy, and to the extent that 'society' to which research should contribute has been conflated with the 'economy', the demand (as an order-word) has in fact contributed to endangering those disciplines whose 'societal contributions' are not straightforward. (Science students could actually help clarify this matter of contribution, relevance and engagement by taking the notion of 'travel' as a matter of risky chain of translations...) The old stories are alive and kicking, entrenched and forcibly present within universities and research institutions. Awareness and content of thought do not make us immune to other practices that currently determine our 'ecology'. I think as science students we should beware that while we are 'out' bringing our message and apply our knowledge, back home the doors are open for the old wolf of political epistemology to come back in...

That is why I have intented for my project to engage with academic researchers pur sang, with primatologists. And not only because we should not assumte that now we know enough of how the sciences work--in STS we can't deny that sciences are historical. Primatology is very interesting in that its knowledge is unlike that of biotechnology, biomedicine, ecology, all branches of physics, and of neuroscience, psychology, sociology and so on. There are no 'applied primatologists', no obvious or simple ways of transposing knowledge of primates unto humans, and still no one questions the interest and relevance of primatology even as theĀ humanities are progressively amputated. In fact, thanks to Donna Haraway, a.o., we can conjecture that what primatologists thought they knew about primates led to a reinforcement of masculinist justifications of a hierarchical view of human collectives. I learn from this to think of engagement beyond academia not as a demand for outreach and amplifying one's devices and conclusions, but as a question of following the links between academic and scientific practice and others practices.

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