Science cultures

Authored by: Francesca Bray

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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As a human activity, science is inescapably cultural, despite its aspirations to create a rigorously objective universe of knowledge and action immune to contamination by cultural concerns. It is this “culture of no culture” – the politics of the apolitical, the contingencies and limitations of the universal, the embodiment or rhetoric of abstract reasoning, the effects upon criteria of objectivity or normality of gender, nationalism, emotion, or morality – that social scientists and cultural critics seek to unpack in what is broadly termed science studies. The chapter opens with a brief genealogy of science studies, from Hessen, Fleck and Canguilhem, through Merton, Kuhn, and Foucault, to STS (science, technology, and society) and ANT (actor-network theory), feminist and postcolonial critiques. It then presents three key themes in recent studies of science in society (risk society; users and citizens; globalization, transnationalism, and decentering) followed by two case studies (epistemic cultures; science cultures in China). Key themes addressed include biopower, practice, and governance. The chapter concludes with a brief reflection on science studies as “useful knowledge,” emancipatory project, philosophical investigation, or – last but not least – an enrichment and re-enchantment of our vision of what science is and how it is done.

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