Constructivist Paradoxes Part 1: Critical Thoughts about Provincializing, Globalizing, and Localizing STS from a Non-Hegemonic Perspective
There is a certain ‘failure’ in what we could call the modern development of the STS field over the past decade, i.e. a large number of studies—particularly empirical—that were deployed from the 1970s onwards. Indeed, one of their original and crucial objectives was to emphasize the local, situated, contingent character of the processes of production and negotiation of knowledge. However, these studies mostly concentrate on one part of the world, i.e. the most developed countries, precisely where modern science, commonly referred to as “Western Science,” developed. This limitation—surely intuitive or “natural”—has several consequences analyzed in this article. In summary, these limitations can be analyzed in terms of the objects of research (the various forms of knowledge) but also in terms of the theories and methods used to account for them. The aim is to discuss the construction of a double (or even triple) peripheral situation, which calls into question the old principles of symmetry and impartiality (Bloor 1976; Collins 1981): on the one hand, the peripheral character of the objects analyzed (i.e. science and scientific development outside Euro-America) and, in parallel, the peripheral situation of the communities of specialists who dedicate themselves to studying them. Connected to this, an additional question emerges: What are the theoretical frameworks and methodologies best suited to account for these objects in their respective contexts? Is it suitable to simply apply to these objects of study the same theoretical frameworks and methods commonly used to analyze hegemonic science? And last but not least, how to approach the (scientific, cultural, political) relationships between different contexts in a highly globalized world? This is the first of two parts: while in the first one I discuss the “failures” of the hegemonic paradigm in STS and its consequences in relation to non-hegemonic contexts. The second part—appearing in volume 8, issue 3—focuses on the consequences for the case of STS research in Latin America and the dynamics of its specific agendas.
Those who seek to "provincialize CTS" (Law and Li, 2015), or those who sustain postcolonial perspectives (Anderson, 2012, Harding, 2008 and 2016, among others), promote a real and important advance, since they question the hegemonic model of STS and intend to broaden their agendas to account for and understand the dynamics of technosciences in the "other contexts". It is not a question of finding "new localities" in different "provinces", but rather that the processes of techno-scientific development -both in central and peripheral contexts- are crossed by the complex and heterogeneous societies, where we find, for example, perfectly internationalized scientific elites, generally trained in "central" laboratories, coexisting with a multiplicity of other actors, some of them seeking to reproduce the internationalized canons, others questioning them, while a last group is only oriented by local dimensions.
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