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Accepted Paper:

Science studies, Indigeneity, and historical materialism  
Charles Hahn (University of Washington)

Short abstract:

This paper articulates a Marxist approach to the study of science and technology in Indigenous contexts. As opposed to prominent culturalist frameworks, this approach turns our attention to the concrete and practical knowledges and consciousness of Indigenous groups in politics and history.

Long abstract:

Questions of science, technology, and bureaucracy in Indigenous contexts tend towards discussions of cultural alterity. Traditional Indigenous knowledges are imagined to be relational and place-based, in contrast to Western science which is seen as universalizing and cosmopolitan. Related, frameworks of “coloniality” aim to demonstrate how Western science is valued over Indigenous ways of knowing in different colonial institutions (Quijano and Ennis 2000). All these discussions are ultimately idealist because they are premised on culture, values, and knowledge as preceding rather than reflecting social relations. This paper asks how a historical-materialist approach shifts how we imagine technoscience in Indigenous contexts. Marx’s materialism in The German Ideology, the “Theses on Feuerbach” and Capital takes what and how we know to be outcomes of human agency and creativity in concrete social contexts. If Indigeneity is a social relation that emerges out of Indigenous experience of and opposition to settler colonial dispossession (Nichols 2020), then what defines “Indigenous knowledge” is not an abstract opposition to “Western science” but instead the practical and historical consciousness of Indigenous people in that context. The paper briefly turns to the author’s fieldwork in the U.S. state of Alaska, where Alaska Native groups have long taken up diverse forms of knowledge, including “scientific” forms, to advocate for their interests and articulate critiques of dispossession. Such “Indigenous knowledge” reflects the concrete and sometimes diverse experience and consciousness of Alaska Native groups in opposition to the various dimensions of settler colonialism.

Traditional Open Panel P331
Political Economy, Historical Materialism, And STS
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -