Question Forum 5 - "The Global Turn"

Question 1: For this week, we read two “History of Science” articles, “Postcolonial Technoscience” by Warwick Anderson and “When Science Became Western” by Marwa Elshakry. Although each article contains information of two separate time periods, compare the discussion a similar concept within each article. Or, discuss how these articles oppose one another.

Question 2: How does viewing science and/or technology within a postcolonial framework allow us to see the ways in which “scientific and technological endeavours become sites for fabricating and linking local and global identities, as well as sites for disrupting and challenging the distinctions between global and local” (Anderson 644)?

Question 3: In the article, “When Science Became Western,” Marwa Elshakry mentions the “paradox” that the “concept of ‘Western science’ was itself first developed” outside of the West (Elshakry 100). Why is this fact important? How might ideas held by people outside of the West of what constituted “Western science” have helped to shape the reality of Western science?

Michael's Answer

Scientists in the West viewing science as fundamentally Western, whether this identity comes from outside or inside the West, or is done consciously or unconsciously, has historically had implications for how science is practiced. These have included, at times, a disregard for knowledge created in non-Western societies, especially knowledge preserved orally instead of through writing, and a presumption that scientists not of European origin must become culturally Western to become scientists. In the former case, fields such as ethnobotany, and an increased willingness to use oral tradition in support of the search for physical evidence in fields such as geology, have started to at least recognize the possibility of using these forms of knowledge. In the latter case, the narrative of who is and is not a scientist is being fiercely re-written in ways likely to weaken this bias.

Because each of those topics could be explored at great length, I am going to narrow the topic- how might viewing science as Western view change the narrative of STS scholarship, much of which was shaped by the scientific community. I believe that there are two ways in which this narrative may have been re-shaped: finding an origin point for “science,” and in arguing for the political context of Europe during the Renaissance until the Enlightenment as shaping this origin.

If one takes the argument that science is Western at face value, one must also recognize that, for most of European history, the knowledge systems in place would not be recognizably different from those of other cultural areas, whether ones that Europe had direct contact (the Islamic world), indirect contact (China), or no contact (the Americas or Australia.) A historian is forced to find a starting point where the knowledge systems become recognizably different.

We see this within Kuhn, who implicitly finds a starting point for Western science in pointing to the first of his scientific revolutions: the Copernican revolution. Using this as a starting point implies that the knowledge systems existing in Europe enable this revolution, and are therefore partially scientific, but are somehow not complete because they have not undergone such transformations. Kuhn points to the existence of “normal science” as necessary for scientific revolution. It is interesting to note that Kuhn’s first scientific revolution occurs in the context of knowledge that appears in multiple knowledge systems: the understanding of astronomy necessary to set a calendar.

The argument then extends to Shapin and Schaffer’s work on Boyle and Hobbes. This work traces the development of experimental science in the context of the political situation as it existed in England in the 17th century. Implicit in this argument is that Western science has been inevitably shaped by the political transformations of Europe during this time period. If science is Western then, it is a product of the political and cultural forces at work in Europe during this period. This contrasts with a universal definition of science, which might state that how these values arguments are expressed varies based on politics and culture, but not in the core formation of science.

Jonathan's Response (Question 3)

Drawing from the post-colonial tradition, Elshakry’s goal in “When Science Became Western” is to demonstrate (paradoxically) how a particular understanding of “science” was developed and contested globally during the late nineteenth century. Her deconstruction is important because it decenters the notion of “Western science” as a concept that solely developed in the West, and instead proposes that very idea of a “Western” science depended on the encounters with other non-Western knowledge traditions (for example, Chinese and Arabic science). Elshakry’s post-colonial account, therefore, challenges the imperialist narrative of the European/American scientific global colonization, instead asking: “What did people outside Europe make of the idea of ‘Western’ science? How did their understanding of this change ideas, practices, and disparate categories of knowledge—as well as belief—more broadly?” (99).
It is only by asking these questions, Elshakry argues, that we can understand more fully how it is that a particular definition of “science” (that is, science as “Western”) became so ubiquitous and powerful in the global context.

Elshakry’s historical analysis suggests instead that the version of science that Western missionaries transmitted from the 17th-19th centuries spread through syncretism (for example, the Chinese reading of Huxley’s and Darwin’s evolutionary accounts as continuation of local knowledge debates). These global syncretic encounters facilitated the spread of what became known as Western science, but during the first half of the 20th century, a more linear history of science (constructed by the new discipline of the history of science) became necessary to promote the ideology of the “new internationalism” of the period (104). In this international political context, the former syncretic, local nature of global science necessitated a new history of science that would unite mankind under a “New Humanism,” championing rationalism and modernity.

According to Elshakry’s argument, therefore, this concept of modern Western science triggered other more local traditions to distinguish themselves from this universalizing narrative, hence, the concept Western was conceptually necessary for the establishment of other sciences, such as “Chinese science” and “Arabic science” (107). Elshakry’s postcolonial account, therefore, helps us to understand how “science,” as conceptualized within the discipline of the history of science became “Western,” and how within this historiographical tradition, other the contributions of other scientific traditions became relevant only when they fit this Western model.

Question 4: David Turnbull cites Steven Shapin in his claim that “the basis of knowledge is not empirical verification, but trust” (Turnbull 20). Do you agree with this claim? How might the concept of “knowledge as trust” factor into discussions of the movement of science between different localities and cultures, and across different times?

Katelyn Kuhl

Question 3:
Marwa Elshakry examines the history of the history of science in the article “When Science Became Western.” The creation of “modern,” “western” science is tied to the early questions raised by scholars of the history of science and their the search for “global narratives.” She argues that these scholars “also invented a notion of Western science that flattened out knowledge communities and traditions and place them into a single historical teleology.” (109) This flattened view was predicated by ideas of the linear development of science encompassed in the concept “scientific revolution.” In creating this identity for western science, non-western sciences began to be defined. “Hence, paradoxically the creation of a notion of a universalizing “Western science” helped lay the conceptual foundations for ‘chinese science,’ ‘Arabic science,’ and even ‘Islamic science’…” (106-107)

It was in early interactions between British/American protestant missionaries in China which first used the term “Western Science.” Elshakry views this interaction between different perspectives on science as syncretic, a blending of ideas. Yet missionaries did promote a “very particular vision of ‘science.’” They created the first science magazines and negotiated understandings of science through translation of relevant terms. This was a building onto what was already there process. The new ideas were “explained in reference to the old…”(104) It was in the non-western world that this idea of western science was developed in relation to other countries and what became their own sciences.

Question 4:
Trust is a component of Turnball’s understanding of knowledge systems. But it is not the only aspect. In describing the knowledge systems of the Anasazi, Incan and Australian aboriginals, Turnball describes the creation of networks that allow for local knowledge to move. The knowledge moves through trust, but also through technical means and other organizational practices.

For the Incan society, messy local knowledges were connected and spread through the quipas and ceques. Quipas are knotted strings that communicate information through numbers and accounting. Chasquis are runners that travel the roads from Cuzco to the corners of the empire connecting different local areas. The calendar was also a connecting power that enabled local knowledge to be compared and connected to other local knowledges. For the Australian aboriginals “the kinship system and songlines together constitute a knowledge network that allows for everything to be connected and equivalences negotiated.” (35)

Along with these technical devices (Incan) and “cognitive constructs” (Aboriginal), “all of [the knowledge systems] also require social organization, rituals, and ceremonies…” (38) It is this ability to develop these technical devices and cognitive constructs that enable the movement of knowledge, that give knowledge systems their source of power. The Western system is not more powerful because of its actual type of knowledge, but because of “its greater ability to move and apply the knowledge it produces beyond the site of its production.” (38)

Ariel Ludwig – Presentation 5, Question 4 Response
When thinking about trust as “the basis of knowledge,” the first thing that comes to mind is its inscription on U.S. currency - “In God We Trust” (Turnbull 20). It is this trust that makes currency itself meaningful as anything other than rectangular paper. In this example, the notion of trust and faith become adjoining territories with indistinct borders. In Masons, Tricksters, and Cartographies, Turnbull quotes Shapin as stating that “[t]rust is, quite literally, the great civility. Mundane reason the space across which trust plays. It provides a set of presuppositions about self, others, and the world which embed trust and which permit both consensus and civil dissensus to occur” (Turnbull 20). He goes on to suggest that technical assemblages, which often include spatial depictions, are used to make disparate aspects of knowledge traditions coherent and cohesive as a unified whole.
Secondly, trust is an essential part of the translation process that allows a specific knowledge system to traverse specific units of time and space. Thus, the role of trust within knowledge systems can be thought of as being both inside and outside of the construction. This becomes evident in the conveyance of knowledges. Although it seems contradictory to the process of translation, Turnbull suggests that the technical assemblages that comprise knowledge structures are by nature local. This contradiction is resolved by Turnbull when he states that “theories are models or tools whose application results from situations being conveid as, or actually being made, equivalent” (Turnbull 43). However, in order for such understandings of equivalence to be made there must be trust in the knowledge system. As Trumbell states, “[w]ithout social institutions the results of scientific research are mere artefacts. They gain their truth, efficacy, and accuracy not through a passive mirroring of reality, but through an active social process that brings our understandings and reality into conformity with each other” (Turnbull 43).
In terms of whether or not I agree with Turnbull in terms of the role of trust as the basis of knowledge, I find myself experiencing conflict, as I am unable to separate trust from the complex, multidimensional assemblage that it is a part of. For instance, trust seems to be the personal and collective response that facilitates one’s values and/ or belief in the knowledge system in question. Thus, trust is the outcome of larger techniques of knowledge transmission and social / cultural valuation.


Amanda Phillips - Question 4 Response

Trust is a term utilized by David Turnbull in Masons, Tricksters, and Cartographers to enable a less centralized understanding of collective knowledge production. In quoting Shafer, Turnbull points to the ways communities are able to promote trust as a means of either gathering or disassembling collective consensus (20). In contrasting trust to empirical verification there is less direct emphasis on fact, veracity, and truth. This speaks to the mobility of knowledge in non-western scientific traditions. As Turnbull writes, “This mobility requires devices and strategies that enable connectivity and equivalence, that is the linking of disparate or new knowledge and the rendering of knowledge and context sufficiently similar as to make the knowledge applicable” (20). What is at stake here is not the competition of similar discourses or understandings of nature, but how different knowledge sets are translated, accepted, or linked through spatial and temporal distance.

The local context of knowledge production is evident in Turnbull’s discussion of the calendar system created by Anasazi. In describing the importance of considering the local he writes, “it strongly reflected its context of use in that it relied on specific horizon markers to record the sun’s movements but was none the less capable of movement to different times and places, while simultaneously adapting to changing understandings and needs and providing the growth of an extensive and complex society” (26). Although the quoted passage does not mention trust explicitly, what is of key in this description is that it brings into focus how understanding trust as knowledge helps to destabilize western understandings of power, idea transmission, and verification. What Turnbull is describing is a flexible and adaptive system that while contextually accurate does not necessarily speak to a grand empirical understanding of the world.

I agree with Turnbull’s usage here, if only that studying ‘trust’ and its linkages has the potential to help scholars get a different piece of the scientific puzzle. While it might muddy Merton’s norms, understanding trust captures the social dynamism that can impart local character upon understandings of nature and the world. This speaks to a multiplicity and embedding of knowledge that focuses on the lived experience of those to participate more so than a disinterested empiricism.

Rich's Response to Question 2

Warwick Anderson tells us that using a post-colonial lens to examine the spread of science and technology provides a method to look at the intersection of the global and the local in terms of the diffusion of science and technology. But he is also making the case that the study of the movement of science and technology around the globe should be a catalyst to explore and understand how the global and the local interact. Anderson believes the perception that scientific knowledge simply diffused to world and collected in pools where the ground was well prepared by colonial activity is oversimplified. (Anderson, 648). Center the flow of science and technology was significantly influenced colonized peoples but as he points out science and technology is always local. The point is to both avoid the standard center and periphery trope while also avoiding a hodgepodge of disjointed local histories.

In rejecting the center-periphery paradigm articulated by Basalla and others Anderson highlights a number of other theorists that reject the linearity of this mode of analysis. He clearly favors an approach that incorporates the study of contact zones between western and local interpretations of science and technology and the role of networks. Using Turnbull as an example, Anderson’s point is that it is not sufficient to look at the local or the global but it is imperative to look at the interaction and the resulting hybrids. (Anderson, 649) Arguably, Anderson goes farther in understanding the hybridization of the local and global than Turnbull who suggests the a priori maintenance of dialectical opposition between the local and the global and suggests that in reality there are examples of hybrid modernity in which the imbrication of Indigenous thought is apparent in modernist discourse in specific examples. (Anderson, 651) Anderson uses Gabriel Hecht’s work on uranium mining to show how colonial influences and technologies were incorporated into distinct local technological futures. (Anderson, 651)

Anderson asserts that post-colonial frame of analyses is an important lens to analyze the spread of science and technology particularly in light of the decline of nation-state. However, what is required is post-colonial analysis that uses multi-disciplinary approaches to at the complex transactions in networks where the local and global interact to create unique technological futures.

Pratama's Response to Question 1

Question 1.

This week reading is about global impact of science and technology. To analyze the global impact of science and technology, Anderson offers a postcolonial approach in science and technology studies. He states, “A postcolonial perspective suggests fresh ways to study the changing political economies of capitalism and science, the mutual reorganization of the global and the local, the increasing transnational traffic of people, practices, technologies, and contemporary contests over 'intellectual property” the term 'postcolonial' thus refers both to new configurations of technoscience and to the critical modes of analysis that identify them.” (p.643) In this way, a postcolonial perspective studies knowledge from different point in the two views. Addressing the process of globalizing scientific knowledge, postcolonial technoscience deals not only with the transformation of scientific knowledge and its legacy but also revealing the relationship between politics economy of capitalism and universalizing science. Moreover, postcolonial technoscience provides another way of view for finding “a new scientific knowledge” from the margin. Often, the knowledge from the margin is concealed under politics economy relations. This approach is useful to reveal how the mask of “universal” science produces, legitimates, and constitutes in the global context.
In addition, echoing of Marwa’s article When Science Became Western, it can be seen from historiographies that the concept of western science is not a singular origin, but a result of intersubjectivity, including the “non-western” areas. In postcolonial studies of science and technology, Anderson and Marwa’s account can overlap each other. Marwa’s account provides analysis in the process of universalizing science. Marwa states, “In the process, a much more specific and, in turn, a more universalizing notion of Western science was forged. This conception proved highly resilient, as the use of geographically dichotomous terms like “Western” and “non-Western” demonstrates. This division, moreover, goes well beyond mere expediency; rather, it has a very concrete history of its own, and it is one that may ultimately help us to define what has come to count as science and what has not.” (p.100) In addition, Anderson’s postcolonial technoscience can investigate the trajectory of western science works in the global context. Anderson writes, “A postcolonial analysis thus offers us a chance of disconcerting conventional accounts of so-called 'global' technoscience, revealing and complicating the durable dichotomies, produced under colonial regimes, which underpin many of its practices and hegemonic claims.” (p.644) In my view, postcolonial technoscience can explain how scientific knowledge defines things as science or not. Also, postcolonial technoscience investigates the operation of politics economy of capitalism in supporting the transformation science in one place to another place. For example, Marwa’s and Anderson’s account is useful to explore the implication of the globalizing science in the international scientific community. In particular, how the international scientific community defines, travels, and legitimates standardization of safety.
In addition, Anderson’s account that tends to suggest studying the global impact of science and technology from “non-western” point, seems to fix paradox “western science” in Marwa’s account. Marwa sees the paradoxically in the relationship between “western science” and “the other science” in influencing each other. She states, “the creation of a notion of a universalizing ‘Western science’ helped lay the conceptual foundation for ‘Chinese science,’ ‘Arabic science,’ and even ‘Islamic science,’ among other similar categories” (p.106) Taking another example, perhaps postcolonial technoscience could investigate from the different view of how “Arabic science” or “China science” creates localization of “western science”.

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Lisa's response to Question 4:

Shapin’s comment is insightful, reflecting the fundamental challenge of communication that creates barriers in knowledge transmission. Two parties must agree on core terms definitions and techniques to learn and share information before they can agree to what knowledge means. This issue becomes a significant concern when people from different cultures and from different localities seek to convey their meaning in words which lack shared core agreements. Sharon Traweek's study on "Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physicists," even people who ostensibly share the same language have difficulty explaining all the embedded knowledge to describe the procedures and assumptions which contributed to a specific scientific scenario and its results. As Turnbull notes,

. “Mundane reason is the space across which trust plays. It provides a set of presuppositions about self, others, and the world
. which embed trust and which permit both consensus and civil dissensus to occur.” (Turnbull, 20)

The social methods of organizing, conveying and producing knowledge are dissimilar in different spaces and times, requiring effort to generate equivalencies. Turnbull’s core concept of knowledge as situated and situating, in an assemblage, means that significant elements are built up on tacit knowledge. If one scientist reports a result without conveying the assemblage of procedures and assumed prior knowledge (“prior art”) that is embodied, the gaining scientist or organization cannot be sure that the newly reported knowledge fits into their own assemblages of knowledge and embodied mental models without trying to achieve the same results within their own community and organization structures. This need to repeat everything to ensure that the foundational knowledge can be understood in a standard manner is time-consuming and requires significant effort to uncover the presuppositions and demonstrate the knowledge sufficiently in the gaining organization context. The effort can inhibit cross-organizational and cross-cultural knowledge sharing under a variety of circumstances. Even crossing disciplinary boundaries within the same organizational construct provides barriers to sharing knowledge.

Russ Rochte's late response to Q2:
By employing a post-colonial lens in order to explore the spread of science and technology, one acquires a methodology to analyze the results of the intersection of the “global” and the “local” to attempt to trace the diffusion of both S&T AND the means and methods of their creation. Warwick Anderson argues that studying the “flow” of “science and technology” around the globe allows one to uncover “the co-production of identities, technologies and cultural formations characteristic of an emerging global order (643). The former viewpoint that scientific knowledge simply diffused round the world from Europe (and presumably, later from America) and collected in pools where the ground was ready to receive it (it is assumed as a byproduct of by colonial activity) is unacceptably oversimplified (648). Viewing S&T within a post-colonial framework allows the researcher to discover the activity at the “frontiers,” or sites/locations of hybridization and contact/trading zones. The dangers that lurk within the post-colonial framework are principally two: one may “sink into a sea of local histories” (648), or one may lose one’s identity within a rising relativism. But if the researcher can avoid these trap, then one can identify and trace the local presumptions and practices that become the science that travels round the world (649).

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