Situated Knowledges Thirty Years Later

15 Nov 2018
9:30 am - 4:30 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

This day-long conference will commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Donna Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of the Partial Perspective.” Haraway’s work changed the political and intellectual stakes of social and humanistic studies of science. Originally a critique of Sandra Harding’s The Science Question in Feminism (1986), Haraway’s article has come to take an intellectual life of its own, influencing research in science and technology studies, ethnic studies, and the history of science, among others. “Situated knowledges” as a methodological stance continues to undergird research; as such, we seek to highlight its engagement and revision in current scholarship. This may bring us to a very different understanding of the science question in light of the intellectual and techno/scientific landscape of the last thirty years.

This event gives campus graduate students and faculty an opportunity to present their research to a wide audience and to receive important feedback on their projects. We encourage the attendance of undergraduate students and community members.

Please RSVP here.

9:30 – 10:00 AM Registration opens, Breakfast and Morning Reception

10:00 – 10:15 AM Symposium Welcome
Ashton Wesner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Julie Pyatt, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Massimo Mazzotti, Professor, Department of History; Director, Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, University of California, Berkeley

10:15 – 10:35 AM Opening Dialogue
Michael Mascarenhas, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Julie Pyatt, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley

10:45 – 11:45 AM Panel I: Boundary projects of terrain and the environment
Melina Packer, Ph.D candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Sarah E. Vaughn, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Moderator: Laura Dev, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley

11:45 – 12: 00 PM Coffee break

12:00 – 1:00 PM Panel II: Medicine & the “apparatus of bodily production”
Lisa Allette Brooks, Ph.D. candidate, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Jennifer L. Derr, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Cruz

1:00 – 2:00 PM Lunch

2:00 – 3:30 PM Panel III: “Material-semiotic actors” through and amid digital, algorithmic, and genetic coding
Paul Michael L. Atienza, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Victoria Massie, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
Mitali Thakor, Assistant Professor, Science and Society Program, Wesleyan University
Moderator: Sibyl Diver, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Earth Systems Science, Stanford University

3:30 – 3:45 PM Coffee break

3:45 – 4:00 PM Final Remarks
Sibyl Diver, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Earth System Science, Stanford University
Ashton Wesner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Julie Pyatt, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley

4:00 – 4:30 PM Closing Reception

Speaker Information

Lisa Allette Brooks
“Situating post-colonial Āyurvedic knowledges: Objectivity, biomedicine, and physicians’ reasoning (yukti) as an epistemic remedy in contemporary Kerala”

In classical Āyurvedic medicine, four means of valid knowledge (pramāṇa-s) constitute the epistemic foundation of physicians’ practice: authoritative teaching (āptopadeśa), sensory observation (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), and conjunctive reasoning (yukti). This paper considers yukti—a category that is unique to Āyurveda, among classical Indian epistemologies—in relation to Haraway’s “situated knowledges,” as a critical form of reasoning that physicians in contemporary Kerala describe as a means for mediating between the knowledges derived from Āyurvedic authoritative teaching (āptopadeśa) and contemporary biomedical technologies. In contrast to the form of objectivity promised by both the classical Āyurvedic ideal of an authoritative individual (āpta), whose omniscient perceptual abilities hinge upon a clear dispassionate mind, and in Haraway’s words, the “technologically mediated all-seeing god vision of modern science,” physicians describe yukti as a subjectively situated basis for valid knowledge. This paper suggests that the concept of yukti is functioning, in Kerala today, in what Haraway calls the “risky practice” of boundary making, as an epistemic remedy in physicians embodied negotiation and creative constitution of Āyurvedic medicine.

Lisa Allette Brooks is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of South and Southeast Asia at the University of California, Berkeley with designated emphases in Science and Technology Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research focuses on the history and philosophy of Indian medicine, gender, sexuality, and the body in Sanskrit literature, and the practice of contemporary transnational Ayurveda. Informed by feminist STS and sensory studies methodologies, her dissertation, “Translating Touch in Ayurveda,” examines touch in the ontology, epistemology, diagnostics, and practice of Ayurvedic medicine in first millennium South Asia and contemporary Kerala, including a multi-species ethnography of the intra-active entanglements of Ayurvedic leech therapy.

Paul Michael L. Atienza
“Of Posers and Poz Men: Digital Life Strategies For/Against Gay Dating App Norms in Manila”

One of the aims in queer feminist science studies is to insist that the construction of normality and deviance is tied to a network of actors involved in creating meaning through co-constitutive semiotic and material processes. I offer stories from my dissertation research focused on the digital lives of gay and bisexual Filipinos that discuss posers and poz men as deviant figures within the situatedness of geolocative dating apps in Manila. I suggest that posers and poz men offer distinct strategies in resisting established norms of attractiveness and desirability in these digital platforms. Through the poser’s intent to deceive and the poz man’s open declaration of his HIV seropositive status, they seek to short-circuit a system that rewards certain digitized bodies as more valued than others.

Paul Michael Leonardo Atienza is a Ph.D. candidate of Anthropology with a graduate minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was one of the first to receive a Master of Arts degree in Southeast Asian Studies through the University of California, Riverside’s SEATRiP program. His dissertation project, “The Promise of Intimacy,” examines the “social traffic” of digital media use among gay and bisexual Filipinos and its ties to social and material hierarchies in and between Manila, Philippines and Los Angeles, California.

Jennifer L. Derr
“Situating the Post-Colonial Body in Egypt”

During the twentieth century, Egypt was the site of two interconnected disease epidemics that target the liver. With the construction of dams on the Nile River and the spread of perennial irrigation, millions of Egyptians were infected with the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Beginning in the 1930s, millions of Egyptians were also infected with hepatitis C, the product of an extensive nationwide treatment campaign for schistosomiasis. Using the liver as a site of analysis, this talk explores the construction and understanding of the post-colonial body in Egypt during the second half of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Derr is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Derr’s research explores the intersections among science, medicine, political economy, and the environment in the modern Middle East. Her first manuscript, The Lived Nile: Environment, Disease, and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt will be published by Stanford University Press in 2019. She is at work on a second manuscript project, The Liver in Egypt: Productions of an Organ through 20th-century Public Health and Political Economy, which traces the production of (the organ) the liver as a site of knowledge, disease, environmental pollution, and treatment in twentieth and twenty-first-century Egypt.

Sarah E. Vaughn
“What about Expertise?: Climate Change, Territory, and the Global South”
For postcolonial, low-lying nation-states that are acutely vulnerable to sea-level rise, sea defense is associated with the promises of decolonization, or the collective recognition of bounded territory with an independent nation-state. Thus, in this talk I use an analysis of Guyana’s groynes and related engineering expertise to reveal that the boundaries of national territory and freedom were never a guarantee even with the end of colonial rule. Engineers’ claims to territory have always been in direct conflict with the aspirations of the liberal and emergent nation-state. As I will show, engineers have etched out a space of legitimacy through other “scalar-concepts” of territory, such as the “developed/developing world” that work to mark who belongs to their epistemic community. The brunt of engineers’ inter-territorial claim-making not only offers an alternative genealogy of decolonization, but also allows for an assessment of the distorting effects of climate change on contemporary engineering discourses about territory. Engineers, in other words, are essential storytellers of the nation-state and its climatic futures. Beyond calling out the limitations of sovereign power, they make possible an interconnected world based in expertise and the recognition of vulnerability.
Sarah E. Vaughn is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology. Her primary field is the critical study of climate change. She has engaged climate change through both ethnographic and archival research of the geotechnical engineering sciences, flooding, sea defense, and at the intersection of artisanal mining and forest mapping.

Victoria Massie
“The Risks We Bear To Belong”

This paper discusses the coproduction of risk and ambivalence as a condition of genetic diasporic belonging through genetic ancestry in Cameroon today. While growing numbers of African Americans have been coming to Cameroon to reconnect with their “genetically-certified” country of origin over the past decade, since 2016 return has also been marked by the specter of the “Anglophone crisis.” In particular, over the past year, the “crisis” of Anglophone-discrimination in majority French-speaking Cameroon–the bilingual legacy of Cameroon’s unique colonial history–has been recodified into logics of “national security,” inextricably tied to the democratization of global counterterrorism strategies of the post-9/11 world. By examining how genetic roots tours and pilgrimages encounter and mitigate the Anglophone crisis spectrally and the limits of ethnography’s ability to bear witness, this paper aims to reconsider the moral economy of risk by which emerging biotechnologies are evaluated in the “postgenomic era.” That is, drawing on Haraway’s “situated knowledges,” this paper calls attention to the racialization of risk itself, in which emerging modes of biosociality for people of African descent are reconfigured as the risks one bears, rather than the risks one takes, as a condition of possibility for belonging with these biotechnologies.

Victoria M. Massie (she/her/hers) is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology with a designated emphasis in Science & Technology Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research examines the politics of belonging and the materiality of emerging modes of diasporic biosociality in postcolonial Africa, with a specific focus on Cameroon. She is also a journalist and creative non-fiction writer.

Mitali Thakor
“Situated Flesh: Digital Racial Matter and the Algorithmic Detection of Child Pornography”

In recent decades, legal mandates have tasked technology companies to develop in-house moderation to detect instances of abusive content and images. The appearance of child pornography on a site, particularly, ushers in an unprecedented array of multi-agency coordination between law enforcement, computer scientists, and corporate actors, as agencies link to detect, report, and investigate violent content. My ongoing fieldwork into the detection of child pornography considers how this assemblage of computer vision and legal recognition come together to inscribe meaning upon the bodies of detected, detectable, and undetected children. This paper considers how digitally marked bodies come to matter, as imprints of victimization, as legal objects, and as pixelated race. I re-work Haraway’s suggestion of utilizing a “view from the body” to grapple with the inescapable “fleshiness” of digital racial matter, even as computer vision seeks to distill recognition to discrete data points detectable by code.

Mitali Thakor is Assistant Professor in the Science in Society Program. Her current book project, Facing the Child, is an ethnography of artifice, evidence, and the global policing of child pornography. Her broad research interests include policing, computer vision, content moderation, digital STS, queer studies of the child, robotics, prosthetics, and sex work. Mitali earned her Ph.D. from MIT’s Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, & Society, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Sexualities Project at Northwestern. Mitali is also a professional birth doula. You can read more about her work at and on Twitter at @mitalithakor.

Michael Mascarenhas

Science and technology are both constitutive of racial hierarchies and informed by them, continually contributing to the material and discursive formations of new racialized regimes from incarceration and education to toxic waste and ill-health. With few notable exceptions race and racism have not been given serious attention in STS, despite their central role in producing and shaping technological change and in marginalizing and discriminating against people of color. As STS has elevated the importance of context in both theory and practice, it has ignored how race and racism have influenced and continue to shape the social, cultural, and political fabric of modern capitalism.

In thinking about the next thirty years, scholars in this field and related fields should begin by asking ourselves what will happen to the field of STS if it continues to be a white space.
Deeply rooted patterns of prejudice and discrimination will require both the will of the intellect and the appropriate institutional resources to unsettle and undo the white space of STS.

Michael Mascarenhas is Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at U.C. Berkeley. His forthcoming book “That Ain’t Right”: Power, Profit, Poison and Pure Michigan is an ethnography which investigates the violent impacts from the Flint water crisis five years after the pipes were switched, and the ensuing state of martial law exacted upon a poisoned population under siege.

Michael’s work has included research which examines the market-based policies that produce inequitable water resource access for Canada’s First Nations and the privatization of humanitarian aid following disasters. Michael’s broad research interest include critical race theory, environmental justice, citizen science, forestry management, postcolonial theory and development studies. Michael was an expert witness at the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 2017 on the Flint Water Crisis. Michael earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at Michigan State University and his M.Sc. in Forestry at the University of British Columbia.

Julie Pyatt

The Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia are home to Gullah Geechee families, whose presence there extend back to various points in antebellum history to now. Once considered undesirable land, the Sea Islands, over the decades, have become some of the most coveted real estate on the eastern seaboard. As a result, the Sea Islands are not only the site of contested claims to space, resource management, and environmental restoration efforts, but to expert ecological knowledge as well. Exacerbating social tensions are the increasing impacts of climate change, the frontline upon which the Sea Islands stand.

Julie’s research explores the social dimensions of these contested claims as well as climate crisis responses; the stewardship practices of these multi-generational families, and the significant contribution these epistemologies make toward environmental remediation strategies. This paper is framed in part through Haraway’s insistence of the need to “translate knowledges among very different and power-differentiated communities” within the context of environmental mitigation through TEK (traditional ecological knowledge) practices as well as disaster preparedness. And the ways in which power and perception around ideas of expert knowledge influence and undermine the preponderance of climate crisis management.

Julie Pyatt is an Oakland native and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. Her current dissertation project, “Contestations from the Barriers,” encompasses archive, narrative, and ethnography to illustrate the synchronicity between traditional cultural retentions among Gullah Geechee communities and the significance these retentions have toward ecological management, sustainability, and economic security. Her work also explores how regimes of dispossession and displacement of Gullah Geechee communities not only adversely affects people and intergenerational knowledge, but ecologies as well. Julie earned her B. A. from California State University East Bay and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program and Chancellor Fellow.

Melina Packer
“Partial Vision as Chemical Violence; The Expert Rationale for Toxic Exposure”

This presentation offers a critical race feminist Science and Technology Studies reading of the U.S. federal process of chemical risk assessment. Drawing from the dominant U.S. toxicology textbook, Casarett & Doull’s Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons (1975/2018), I show how U.S. regulatory science positions an un-articulated White masculinist capitalist “master-subject” (Weheliye 2014) as the rational, decision-making authority, and further suggest that this partial vision provides an objective/neutral cover for state-sanctioned, unequally-distributed chemical violence.

Melina Packer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation explores the theories, practices, and embodied implications of chemical regulatory science in terms of the endocrine-disrupting capacities of glyphosate.


 Kathleen Cruz Gutierrez, Doctoral Candidate, Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies, U.C. Berkeley
: Julie Pyatt, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, U.C. Berkeley
: Ashton Wesner, Doctoral Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, U.C. Berkeley, 510-642-4581

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Center for Southeast Asia Studies • CSTMS • Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management • Filipino & Philippine Studies • The Graduate Assembly • Townsend Center for the Humanities

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