Wandering off the beaten path: STS and sociology in Latvia
Paper short abstract:
Paper long abstract:
The entanglements of science and other human endeavours in the intellectual ecosystems of contemporary societies have been given detailed treatment in much recent STS literature. The attention, however, is usually directed at expertise emanating from the more traditional and established scientific disciplines (i.e. natural and engineering sciences), biomedicine or forms of social science that generally have a pronounced quantitative dimension (e.g. economics). The specificity of sociology as a purveyor of knowledge has, curiously enough, animated little interest among science studies scholars.
This paper explores a number of challenges and complications that an STS project can face in trying to elicit and articulate the views of sociologists working in a post-Soviet context (Latvia). I argue that, in addition to being confronted by considerable internal heterogeneity vis-a-vis political and metaphysical commitments, a significant problem is the friction between academically related disciplinary cultures whose surface similarities obfuscate differences in both professional and theoretical outlooks. Furthermore, while some of these differences are due to the specificity of sociology as an object of study, others, I argue, stem from my respondents' understanding of the relationship between STS and sociology. The paper is based on my interviews with Latvian sociologists (and my experiences thereof) as part of my PhD at Lancaster University.