Rethinking Scientific Habitus: Toward a Theory of Embodiment, Institutions, and Stratification of Science
Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus has been largely absent in Science and Technology Studies (STS) despite its potential usefulness. In this essay, I develop the concept of scientific habitus as a useful way to think about scientific practices. I argue that scientific habitus may offer three contributions that illuminate scientists’ own micro-practices in relation to meso- and macro-level dynamics in the scientific field. First, the concept enables us to think of scientists’ worldviews and bodily techniques as objects of STS analysis. While the majority of STS scholars have focused on the construction of knowledge, scientific habitus allows us to study the construction of the scientists’ body and mind. Secondly, scientific habitus links individual practices with institutional contexts; it highlights how the micro-practices of individuals in scientific laboratories reflect and reproduce macro-social structural power dynamics. Third, scientific habitus reveals mechanisms of stratification within the scientific field. It helps unpack scientists’ practical decisions surrounding research topics, ideas, and data. It also helps explain why and how certain scientific projects are preferred and others left undone. Scientific habitus, therefore, has the potential to contribute to a more encompassing explanation of the relationship between societal structures and the internal logic of the scientific field.
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