From Resistance to Co-Management?: Rethinking Scientization in the Contestation of the Technosciences

  • Sezin Topçu CEMS (Centre for the Study of Social Movements)-CNRS (French National Research Centre)-Ehess (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales-Paris)


Since the critique of science movements emerged in the 1970s, knowledge-power relationships in the technosciences have changed significantly. The mobilizations both of scientists to produce science for the people and of lay producers of knowledge and expertise have helped to remedy the perceived deficits of official science. STS research to date has abundantly and rather enthusiastically examined the forms and conditions of production of this critical, dissident, alternative knowledge, but few studies have looked at how scientific and political elites react to and engage with such knowledge-based mobilizations. Focusing on ways of governing techno-criticism, this article aims to contribute to filling this gap. It investigates the innovative capacity of social movements and public authorities as well as their capacity for renewal and ability to shift power relations in their favor, including in the inevitable crisis and scandal situations. Drawing on empirical evidence from a long-term sociohistorical study of the contestations over French nuclear complexes, I propose an analytical framework that distinguishes four historically situated modes of managing scientifically informed contestations of the technosciences. I conclude that scientized or expert activism can be most effective, including within top-down participatory settings, if it is accompanied by oppositional protest and even radical criticism.


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30 May 2022
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