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Epistemic emergencies / emergency epistemics 
Franziska Zirker (University of Marburg)
Finn Langbein (University of Marburg)
Sven Opitz (University of Marburg)
Leon Wolff (University of Marburg)
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Tony Joakim Ananiassen Sandset (University of Oslo)
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Emergencies are epistemically exceptional. Conditions of urgency and uncertainty demand actionable knowledge, pressuring scientific practices into an emergency mode. Focussing on the interplay between emergency epistemics and epistemic emergencies, the panel brings together STS and Security Studies.

Long Abstract:

Emergencies are exceptional situations. They transform the ways in which social processes and events are problematized and made actionable. While the debate on governing emergencies (Adey, Anderson and Graham 2016; Collier and Lakoff 2021) has primarily dealt with administrative technologies employed in the executive branch, this panel seeks to shift the focus to the field of technoscience. Recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, chemical exposures, or climate change not only push political decision-making routines to their limits, but also re-calibrate technoscientific practice. This panel asks how the state of emergency is inscribed into and shapes technoscientific practices, thereby bridging the gap between Security Studies and STS.

We start with the observation that technoscience is not only at the heart of the identification and establishment of emergencies, but that epistemic practice also changes significantly once it is faced with conditions of urgency. First, emergency technoscience is characterized by an emergency epistemics. To effectively address emergencies, specific epistemologies are required that are capable of comprehending crucial mechanisms of pandemics or finding appropriate courses of action in the face of planetary threats. These imply specialized knowledge hierarchies that emerge from idiosyncratic processes of knowledge production. Second, exceptional situations are often grounded in or cause epistemic emergencies: When dealing with the problems posed in the context of emergencies, the existing technoscientific practices become inadequate. Diseases without specific causes or sudden ecological transitions render conventional scientific routines, techniques, and patterns of interpretation and explanation insufficient. This inadequacy prompts a transformation of scientific practices, which may either stabilize for the duration of the emergency or endure beyond it.

Against this background, the panel critically examines the interplay between emergency epistemics and epistemic emergencies. We invite scholars to discuss with us papers on the transformation of technoscience in times of emergency.

Accepted papers: