Making Knowledge as if the World Matters WGS360 Jan 2014
Dr. Astrida Neimanis
Knowledge, a social construct (not selfevident) (apparatus)
Contingent on a common place/time
Who provides knowledge?
Epistemology = The Study of Knowledge
Subjects and Objects of Knowledge January 13 , 2014
The “Savannah Theory”
Came ‘down from the trees’
‘Man the Hunter’
Hostile land of ferocious beasts
First weapons were spears made of animal bone
Survival of the fittest
“Aquatic Ape theory of Evolution” Elaine Morgan (Alistair Hardy)
Structural Differences (webbed fingers)
Bipedal posture and locomotion
Capacity for seepch
Naked foetus and hairless human adult
Large deposists of subcutaneous fat
A tendency towards face to face copulation
Innate diving reflexes and swimming infants
Who are these accounts primarily about? Whose experience are they narrating?
From whose perspective is the account being told? How does this make a difference to
what is being told?
Subjectivity matters, knowledge is partial. Knowledge communities, and whose
knowledge counts? Who validates knowledge? Context/community are relevant to what
knowledge is produced, and why it is produced. As knowledge makers we must question
where knowledge comes from.
Strong Social Constructivist Perspective Subjectivity (Subject Position)
World’s ‘Independent Sense of Humour’
The Problem (Code):
Logical positivism and positivist empiricism (AngloAmerican tradition) overdetermine
how we understand objectivity and truth.
‘S’ knows that ‘p’
Knower – a neutral, exchangeable person
Known – an observable fact (physics)
Result: “knowledge worthy of the name must transcend the particularities of experience
to achieve objective purity and value and neutrality” (721)
The Problem (Haraway):
Scientistic (arrogant, masculinist) positivism
Strong Social (relativist) constructionism
Neither a satisfactory alternative!
“I, and others, started out wanting a strong tool for deconstructing the truth claims of
hostile science by showing the radical historical specificity, and so contestability, of every
layer of the onion of scientific and technological constructions” but “So much for those
of us who would still like to talk about reality”
The Solution: CODE
The Knower (the subjects of knowledge)
The Known (The objects of knowledge)
The Solution: Haraway
“Feminist Objectivity” that produces a better version of knowledge
Vision (mediated knowledge – neither innocent nor simply given)
No God Trick (There is only one view, fallacy) Experiment # 1: The View From Below
Resonates with feminist standpoint theory
All knowledge is partial (incomplete) and situated
You may be able to see a better truth from below (less susceptible to masculinist
But no position is innocent or automatic
You must work to see, and account for your position.
Just as many biases to see with more objectivity. Multiple truths.
Experiment # 2: Prosthetic Vision
We need help to see, prosthetics remind us that all knowledge is mediated + partial
What is “real” is determined by how we know
No mediation is “innocent” we need to account for our apparatuses (device).
What is real is determined by what we use to determine what’s real. Account for all the
devices that decipher knowledge. What methods are used to discover and disseminate
truth, knowledge, reality etc.
Experiment # 3: The “God Trick”
No one can see everything
Trying to be a knowledgemaster usually results in violence
Experiment # 4: Exchange the Box for a Person
Objects of knowledge are not constant, transparent, or fully knowable
Partial knowledge can still be empirically ‘true’
~ Tutorial: Knower versus the Known
Known: static, agency, fixed, unmovable
Knower: neutral, white/euro/American, male, uppermiddle class, able bodied, cisgender
Truths subject to fallacy, hierarchy of privilege
Jan 20 , 2013 Assignment: Can we ever ethically and faithfully represent others? Craft your own
position, original thesis. Specific issues: context of interviewing, colonization,
intersectionality etc. (4 readings)
34 pgs (9001100 words), not just an opinion
READINGS. CRITICAL ENGAGEMENT.
Raising awareness to defend subject, to be their voice (fear), depunk the muths of
insufficient knowledge etc.
Who are you speaking for? Is one in a position to speak for the subject?
Women/queer/politics of group identity. Where and how do we make those divisions.
What parts are being represented? Personal bias etc.
Alcoff: Speaking for others happens in a variety of ways
Doucet: Telling others’stories is affected by a variety of relationships:
1) Between researchers and ourselves + our ‘ghosts’
2) Between researchers and our research subjects
3) Between researchers and the communities we belong to
“Crisis of Representation”
Feminist, Postcolonial and other Social Justice efforts
Post-structural theory (e.g Foucault, Deluze) and “strong social constructionism”
Certain kinds of speaking for others being dangerous. Growing awareness of privileged
groups speaking for the subaltern (dangerous). Reinforces the privileged position of
authority. Not only describing but creating a subjectivity.
Adrienne rich, “Politics of Location” – always located somewhere. “If we have learned
anything in these years of late twentieth-century feminism, it’s that that “always” blots
out what we really need to know: When, where, and under what conditions has the
statement been true?
What about in th