Accepted Paper:

Studying Down to Study Up, Sideways and Through: Positionality and Power in Feminist Postcolonial STS  


Logan Williams (Michigan State University)

Paper short abstract:

Attention to Nader's call to Study Up leads a feminist postcolonial STS scholar to consider her multi-dimensional positionality when conducting a multi-sited global ethnography in the global south.

Paper long abstract:

Science studies scholars often "study up" to high tech elites who produce and design scientific knowledge and technology. Methodological tension begins when you pair a desire to study down to less economically developed countries, with the desire to study up to high tech elites within them. This becomes further complicated when the ethnographer and her informants share professional interests and credentials. In these situations, the position of the ethnographer trained in the global north differs in comparison to her informants living in the global south. The researcher may be perceived as an "economic elite" and has high status because of geo-political privilege. However, the researcher is neither a "high tech elite" nor a local "cultural elite". How might such a researcher successfully access and navigate field sites imbued with these unseen power differentials?

This reflection methodology piece has the goal of drawing attention to this phenomenon as it exists across the global north/south divide of power while providing some strategies of how ethnographers trained in the global north might successfully and ethically access high tech elites in the global south. Commitments to policy-relevant global ethnography and to democratizing field practices as part of feminist (or engaged) ethnography are briefly discussed.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS