Constructivist Paradoxes Part 2: Latin American STS, between Centers and Peripheries

  • Pablo Kreimer


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 second 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, in this second part I focus on the problems raised by post-colonial approaches, on the “peripheral techno-science” as an object for STS scholars and, as a specific case, the development of STS research in Latin America and the dynamics of its specific agendas.


Aga, Aniket. 2021. Genetically Modified Democracy: Transgenic Crops in Contemporary India. Yale Agrarian Studies. New York: Yale University Press.

Alam, M. Anis. 1978. “Science and Imperialism: What is Science” Race & Class 19(3): 239–251.

Allen, Jim. 1967. “The Technology of Colonial Expansion.” Industrial Archaeology 4(2): 111–137.

Anderson, Warwick. 2002. “Introduction: Postcolonial Technoscience.” Social Studies of Science 32(5–6): 643–658.

⸻. 2018. “Remembering the Spread of Western Science.” Historical Records of Australian Science 29(2): 73–81.

Barratt-Brown, Michael. 1963. After Imperialism. London: Heinemann.

Basalla, George. 1967. “The Spread of Western Science: A Three-Stage Model Describes the Introduction of Modern Science into any Non-European Nation.” Science 156(3775): 611–622.

Bloor, David. 1976. Knowledge and Social Imagery. London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1976. “Le champ scientifique.” [The Scientific Field] Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 2(2–3): 88–104.

Callon, Michel, and Bruno Latour, eds. 1991. La science telle qu’elle se fait. Anthologie de la sociologie des sciences de langue anglaise [Science in the Making. Anthology of the Sociology of Sciences of English Language]. Paris: La Découverte.

Cardoso, Fernando H., and Enzo Faletto. 1969. Dependencia y desarrollo en América Latina [Dependency and Development in Latin America]. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Collins, Harry M. 1981. “What is TRASP?: The Radical Programme as a Methodological Imperative.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 11(2): 215-224.

Cozzens, Susan, Ravtosh Bal, Elena Berger, Dhanaraj Thakur, et al. 2011. “Changing Roles for the Global South in International Collaborative Learning.” International Journal of Institutions and Economies 3(3): 445–466.

Diaz, Elena, Yolanda Texera, and Hebe Vessuri. 1983. La ciencia periférica: ciencia y sociedad en Venezuela [Peripheral Science: Science and Society in Venezuela]. Caracas: Monte Avila.

Feld, Adriana. 2015. Ciencia y política(s) en la Argentina, 1943–1983 [Science and Politics/Policies in Argentina, 1943-1983]. Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.

Feld, Adriana, and Pablo Kreimer. 2012. “La Science en Débat en Amérique Latine: Perspectives ‘Radicales’ au Début des Années 1970 en Argentine.” [Science as a Matter of Public Debate in Latin America: ‘Radical’ Perspectives in the Early Seventies in Argentina] Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances 6(2): 273–302.

⸻. 2019. “Scientific Co-Operation and Centre-Periphery Relations: Attitudes and Interests of European and Latin American Scientists.” Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society 2(1): 149–175.

Fu, Daiwie. 2007. “How Far Can East Asian STS Go? A Position Paper.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 1(1): 1–14.

Gaillard, Jacques F. 1994. “North-South Research Partnership: Is Collaboration Possible between Unequal Partners?” Knowledge and Policy 7(2): 31–63.

Galison, Peter. 1999. “Trading Zone: Coordinating Action and Belief (abridged 1998).” In The Science Studies Reader, edited by Mario Biagioli, 137–160. New York and London: Routledge.

González Casanova, Pablo. 1969. Sociología de la explotación [Sociology of Exploitation]. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Gunder Frank, André. 1965. Capitalismo y subdesarrollo en América Latina [Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America]. Buenos Aires: Editorial Signos.

Halperin Donghi, Tulio. 1969. Historia contemporánea de América Latina. Madrid: Alianza.

Harding, Sandra. 1998. Is Science Multicultural? Postcolonialisms. Feminisms, and Epistemologies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Harding, Sandra, ed. 2011. The Postcolonial Science and Technology Studies Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Harding, Sandra. 2016. “Latin American Decolonial Social Studies of Scientific Knowledge: Alliances and Tensions.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 41(6): 1063–1087.

Herrera, Amílcar O. 1971. Ciencia y política en América Latina [Science and Politics in Latin America]. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Hess, David J., and Scott Frickel. 2014. “Introduction: Fields of Knowledge and Theory Traditions in the Sociology of Science.” In Fields of Knowledge: Science, Politics and Publics in the Neoliberal Age, edited by Scott Frickel and David J. Hess, 1–30. Political Power and Social Theory. Bingely, England: Emerald Group Publishing.

Kreimer, Pablo. 1997. “Understanding Scientific Research on the Periphery: Towards a New Sociological Approach?” EASST Review 17(4): 13–21.

⸻. 2010. Ciencia y periferia. Nacimiento, muerte y resurrección de la biología molecular en la Argentina. Aspectos sociales, políticos y cognitivos [Science and Periphery. Birth, Death and Resurrection of Molecular Biology in Argentina. Social, Political and Cognitive Aspects]. Buenos Aires: EUDEBA.

⸻. 2016a. Contra viento y marea. Emergencia y desarrollo de campos científicos en la periferia: Argentina, segunda mitad del siglo XX [Against All Odds. Emergence and Development of Scientific Fields in the Periphery: Argentina, Second Half of the 20th Century]. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

⸻. 2016b. “Co-Producing Social Problems and Scientific Knowledge. Chagas Disease and the Dynamics of Research Fields in Latin America.” In The Local Configuration of New Research Fields. On Regional and National Diversity, edited by Martina Merz and Philippe Sormani, 173–190. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, Volume 29. Cham: Springer.

⸻. 2019. Science and Society in Latin America: Peripheral Modernities. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

⸻. 2022a. “Techno-Scientific Promises, Disciplinary Fields, and Social Issues in Peripheral Contexts.” Science as Culture 31(2): 1–26.

⸻. 2022b. “Constructivist Paradoxes Part I: Critical Thoughts about Provincializing, Globalizing, and Localizing STS from a Non-Hegemonic Perspective.” Engaging Science, Technology and Society 8(2): 159–175.

⸻. 2022c. Latin American STS Agendas: Main Bibliographic References. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society. STS Infrastructures (Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography), last modified December 30, 2022. Accessed December 31, 2022.

Kreimer, Pablo, and Manuel Lugones. 2002. “Rowing Against the Tide: Emergence and Consolidation of Molecular Biology in Argentina, 1960–90.” Science, Technology and Society 7(2): 285–311.

Kreimer, Pablo, and Hebe Vessuri. 2017. “Latin American Science, Technology, and Society: A Historical and Reflexive Approach.” Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society 1(1): 17–37.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lander, Edgardo. 1993. La colonialidad del saber: eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales. Perspectivas latinoamericanas [The Coloniality of Knowledge: Eurocentrism and Social Sciences. Latin American Perspectives]. Buenos Aires: CLACSO.

Lave, Rebecca. 2012. Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism, and the Future of Environmental Science. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Law, John, and Wen-Yuan Lin. 2017. “Provincializing STS: Postcoloniality, Symmetry, and Method.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 11(2): 211–227.

Lemaine, Gérard. 1980. “Science normale et science hypernormale. Les stratégies de différenciation et les stratégies conservatrices dans la science.” [Normal Science and Hyper-normal Science: The Strategies of Differentiation and the Conservative Strategies in Science] Revue française de sociologie 21(4): 499–527.

Levin, Luciano, Pablo Jensen, and Pablo Kreimer. 2016. “Does Size Matter? The Multipolar International Landscape of Nanoscience.” PLOS ONE 11(12): 1–12.

Levin, Luciano G., Pablo Kreimer, and Pablo Jensen. 2021. “Chagas Disease across Contexts: Scientific Knowledge in a Globalized World.” Medical Anthropology 40(6): 572–589.

Liaudat, Santiago. 2021. Stevia. Conocimiento, propiedad intelectual y acumulación de capital [Stevia. Knowledge, Intellectual Property and Capital Accumulation]. First Edition. Foreword by Mariano Zukerfeld. Buenos Aires: Prometeo.

MacLeod, Roy M. 1980. “On Visiting the ‘Moving Metropolis’: Reflections on the Architecture of Imperial Science.” Historical Records of Australian Science 5(3): 1–16.

⸻. 2000. “Introduction” to Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise, edited by Roy M. MacLeod, Osiris (15): 1–13.

Marini, Ruy M. [1973] 2008. “Dialéctica de la dependencia.” [The Dialectic of Dependency] In América Latina, Dependencia y Globalización [Latin America, Dependency and Globalization], anthology of texts by Ruy M. Marini, presented by Carlos E. Martins, 107–150. Second Edition (Revised). Buenos Aires and Bogotá: CLACSO-Siglo del Hombre Editores.

National Science Foundation (NSF). 1981. The 5-Year Outlook on Science and Technology. Washington: National Science Foundation.

Prebisch, Raúl. 1950. “Crecimiento, desequilibrio y disparidades: interpretación del proceso de desarrollo economico.” [Growth, Imbalance and Disparities: Interpretation of the Process of Economic Development] In Estudio Económico de América Latina 1949, 3–89. Santiago de Chile: ECLAC.

Pyenson, Lewis. 1985. Cultural Imperialism and Exact Sciences: German Expansion Overseas, 1900–1930. New York: Peter Lang.

⸻. 1993. Civilizing Mission: Exact Sciences and French Overseas Expansion, 1830–1940. Baltimore, MD and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Rostow, Walt W. 1960. The Stages of Economic Growth. A Non-Communist Manifesto. London: Cambridge University Press.

Seth, Sanjay., Leela Gandhi, and Michael Dutton. 1998. “Postcolonial Studies: A Beginning. . .” Postcolonial Studies 1(1): 7–11.

Shils, Edward A. 1961. “Centre and Periphery.” In The Logic of Personal Knowledge: Essays Presented to Michael Polanyi on his Seventieth Birthday, 11th March 1961, edited by the Polanyi Festschrift Committee, 117–130. London: Routledge.

Shrum, Wesley, Joel Genuth, and Ivan Chompalov. 2007. Structures of Scientific Collaboration. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Stepan, Nancy. 1976. Beginnings of Brazilian Science: Oswaldo Cruz, Medical Research and Policy, 1890-1920. New York: Science History Publications.

Varsavsky, Oscar. 1969. Ciencia, política, cientificismo [Science, Politics and Scientism]. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina.

Wagner, Caroline S. 2005. “Six Case Studies of International Collaboration in Science.” Scientometrics 62(1): 3–26.

World Health Organization (WHO). 1999. Implementation of Resolutions and Decisions: Infant and Young Child Nutrition: the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study. Submitted to the Executive Board for Information, November 16, 1999. Geneva: WHO.

28 Dec 2022