Accepted Paper:

Can the STS scholar speak? Or what are the conditions necessary for telling stories in academia?  

Author:

Natalie Gill

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the question posed by the title in two context: writing about political events in South Africa, and writing as an independent academic. Thinking these contexts together will help to open up the ways in which worlds do politics and say something about what's at stake.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I consider the question posed by the title in two contexts.

The first context is one that draws on events that occurred in Cape Town between 2014-2017. They include the use of excrement from the townships and the use of toyi-toyi - a protest dance - as forms of doing politics. As an STS scholar, I found it interesting to think about the materiality of these political acts. However, these events brought with them their own conditions for political engagement, calling for a shift in the landscape through decolonisation. As a white privileged woman, this makes me feel troubled by the act of speaking and writing about these events. 

The second context that I consider refers to academic meetings like the upcoming EASST conference, but also to pieces of academic writing. These are some of the events and material practices that configure us as academics. And yet meetings imply politics. Who is in, who is out, who can speak, and on behalf of whom - these are political questions. Moreover, as recent events in SA illustrate, the answers to these questions are always materially constituted. As an independent academic I find myself in a situation where speaking as a western white privileged woman is increasingly made difficult. 

It is to this double bind that I speak in this paper. I hope that thinking these contexts together will help to open up the ways in which worlds do politics and say something about what's at stake.

Panel A13
Of other landscapes