(A05)
Meetings of local knowledges: conflicts, complements, and reconfigurations
Location Bowland Lecture Theatre (Bowland Main)
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Andy Yuille (Lancaster University) email
  • Linda Russell (Universidad Autónoma de Campeche) email
  • Nicole Klenk (University of Toronto) email

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Short abstract

This panel investigates the processes of mobilization, translation and application that are implied in enabling different knowledges to meet and have effect in specific contexts, as traditional and other local knowledges are revalued in the face of challenges such as climate change.

Long abstract

STS has long been interested in the situatedness of all knowledge and the consequences this has for ways of being in the world, and has produced insightful studies of situations where different ways of knowing collide or slide past each other (e.g. Wynne, 1996; Verran, 1998). Today, in the face of challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation and social justice, traditional and other local knowledges are being revalued - but how, by whom, and with what effects? International trends towards participation and co-production, the 'turn' that was first lauded for bringing different actors and knowledges together in newly productive relations, then lambasted as a neoliberal project of co-option and colonisation, show no signs of abating. Rather than rehearse the well-established arguments about the 'dark side' of these trends, we seek "more nuanced analyses of the conflicting rationalities … and the dynamics and contradictions often found at the micro-level" (Brownill & Parker, 2010). And we recognise that this applies as much to the knowledges that we produce as the knowledges we research (Yeh, 2016).

This panel invites contributions that investigate the processes of mobilization, translation and application that are implied in enabling different knowledges to meet and have effect in specific contexts. Ranging from Indigenous people reinterpreting the knowledge of their elders to solve contemporary problems, to local knowledges within Western cultures that are tied to particular places and trajectories, we focus on the interfaces where knowledges and worlds come together and how this encounter can become more productive.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Who decides what is fair and natural? Mayan beekeeper encounters with global fair trade cooperatives and organic product scientific standardisation and control

Authors: Linda Russell (Universidad Autónoma de Campeche) email
Said Jose Abud (CEPHCIS, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) email
Wendy Bazan (Muuch Kambal A.C.) email
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Short abstract

A comparative case study of the introduction of "fair trade" and "organic" honey production in South-east Mexico and requirements for product standardisation and cooperative organisation, explains success and failure in terms of respect for Mayan social dynamics and cultural history

Long abstract

Through a comparative analysis of the results of two case studies of the introduction of "fair trade" and "organic" honey production in the State of Campeche in South-east Mexico, by taking into account particular contexts and particular histories we seek "more nuanced analyses of the conflicting rationalities" (Brownill & Parker, 2010) arising from the encounter of different actors and knowledges in these new forms of productive relations introduced in the State in the 1990's. Comparing the 20 year history of NGO propelled cooperatives in the south of Campeche with that of a family enterprise with community participation in the north of the state, we consider how both confronted the demands for quality control in terms of the standardisation of procedures and products, how both resulted in the uneven social acquisition of not only economic but also cultural and social capital and the reasons why the former initiatives collapsed and led to social divisions whilst the latter is achieving its goal of social and environmental regeneration, albeit slowly. Extending Wynne's distinction between the scientific rational with its commitment to standardisation and differentiation, control and prediction and an indigenous knowledge system embedded in "a flexible, adaptive culture which does not lend itself to standardisation or planning" (Wynne, 1996), we consider the particular cultural values and other characteristics of the northern endogenous project which underpin its successes in comparison to the difficulties faced by the NGO mediated cooperatives in the south which ignored Mayan social dynamics and cultural history.

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Beekeepers, scientists, and disparate voices: understanding, and addressing pollinator decline through reconfigured environmental knowledge

Author: Siobhan Maderson (Aberystwyth University) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores beekeepers' views on causes and appropriate responses to pollinator decline. Interview data suggest beekeepers' knowledge is underutilised by scientists. Points of synergy and digression are further challenged by public and media responses which also influence pollinator policy.

Long abstract

Pollinator decline in the 21st century has generated increased scientific and public attention regarding this threat to food security and biodiversity. Policy responses emphasise beekeepers' significant role in monitoring, and ensuring, pollinator well-being. Based on empirical research with long-term beekeepers, and related archival analysis, this paper explores the local environmental knowledge of long-term beekeepers in the United Kingdom, and their views on public, scientific, and political responses to pollinator decline. Empirical results illustrate tensions between the demands of Evidence Based Policy Making for scientifically validated data, and the complex environmental interactions experienced by bees, and observed by beekeepers. Interview data shows many beekeepers following a Precautionary Principle in their analysis of environmental risks. Beekeepers' interpretation of, and response to, synergistic challenges to their bees is often outside the parameters of scientific guidance. Moving beyond the current reliance on data generated by reductionist analysis, and incorporating the temporally rich, situated knowledge of long-term beekeepers, offers potential to reverse pollinator decline, and develop environmental governance systems. Interviewees report diverse experiences of working relationships with scientific researchers, while other more complex, problematic dynamics have arisen. Further complicating the potential for knowledges meeting, is the impact of media and public pressure on policy-makers. Environmental campaigns, media representations, and public misunderstanding of scientific and agricultural challenges to pollinators are leading to ineffective policy responses which frustrate highly informed beekeepers. This paper explores potential reconfigurations of synergies between beekeepers' locally situated knowledges, and scientists' analyses of pollinator decline.

The 360°approach as a case of undone science: knowledges about a plant phatology in Apulia

Authors: Christian Colella (University of Milano‐Bicocca) email
Roberto Carradore (University of Milan-Bicocca) email
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Short abstract

This paper aims to give an account of an ongoing research about the local construction of knowledge about a phytopathology known as Olive quick Decline Syndrome affecting Olive trees in Aplulia (It).The contribution will give an account of the so-called"360approach"pursued by local social movements

Long abstract

Beginning in 2013, Apulia region (It) experienced the first signs of Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS). Since then,a scientific dispute has taken place involving regional laboratories which have initially expressed divergent positions regarding the causal role of the bacterium Xylella Fastidiosa,a pathogen that requires urgent eradication and containment measures in the EPPO region.While the majority of the scientific community strongly supports the causal relation between X.F.and OQDS,social/environmental movements reject this correlation,identifying alternative causes or contributory causes (i.e. fungi, soil pollution, the use of agro-chemical products, etc.).The EU-manded requirement to cut down thousands of centuries-old and culturally important trees,as the only possible XF containment strategy has encountered strong opposition among environmental/social movements advocating for an expansion of research efforts (the "360° approach")in order to find less drastic solutions,with the ultimate goal of curing olive trees instead of eradication.The dynamic is looked as an ongoing schismogenesis of conflicting knowledges unfolding on two levels.On the epistemological level,it appears as a clash between different positions regarding pathologization and medicalization of OQDS;whereas, on the political one,it emerges as a delegitimation of the role of experts working on X.F.as well as criticism towards the politics of scientific research and institutions.While trying to find a theoretical point of convergence between Social Movements Studies and Studies of Expertise and Experience,the main aims of our contribution is framing the so-called "360approach"as a case of "undone science"

Expertise and agency in neighbourhood planning

Author: Andy Yuille (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores how, rather than straightforwardly enabling knowledge that already exists in the community to have effect, Neighbourhood Planning creates new centres of translation, which are themselves effectively de-centred by their relations with a network of existing accredited experts.

Long abstract

Neighbourhood Planning is a new form of small-scale, community-led spatial planning in England. It brings together very different ways of knowing place - knowledge that is top-down, technical, and technologically-mediated, with knowledge that is bottom up, experiential, and first-hand. These knowledges meet - and often conflict - in relation to the amount, type and location of new development that is appropriate for a place. The power to plan rests on the ability to produce and mobilise knowledge that can be justified as legitimate.

This meeting and conflict of knowledges is not new, but acquires a new dimension with Neighbourhood Planning's promise to devolve and de-centre power. The practice of Neighbourhood Planning creates new actors which interfere with existing relations and arrangements and establish new processes for bringing together different forms of knowledge. This paper draws on two ethnographic case studies to investigate the ways in which these new actors simultaneously re-inscribe and reconfigure the expert-agency coupling, and can both reinforce and disrupt existing power relations and their associated modes of knowing. It explores how, rather than straightforwardly enabling knowledge that already exists in the community to have effect, Neighbourhood Planning creates new centres of translation which are necessarily distinct from the community and authorised to act in part because of that very distinctiveness. However, these new centres are simultaneously effectively de-centred by their relations with a network of accredited experts mobilising already-legitimized forms of knowledge. I conclude with some reflections on ways that this knowledge encounter could become more open.

Neogeography and the insurrection of knowledges

Author: Doug Specht (University of Westminster) email
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Short abstract

This paper seeks to show the ways in which cartographic artifacts have been used in Latin America to go beyond spatial representations and towards eliciting competing localities and grounded truths which enunciate and draw conflict and insurrection to the centre of attention.

Long abstract

New developments within ICT's are, suggests Foucault, able to invert previous metaphors of the panopticon, with these new information technologies allowing for the challenging of elites. While this notion is subject to continuous debate, one such field where this inversion has been stark has been within the production of maps. Maps and spatial representations produced by local people have a long history, yet in the last ten years the field of cartography has moved in directions unimaginable just 20 years ago. Cartography, through increased access to digital platforms, has been slipping from the control of the powerful bourgeoisie bringing about the creation of 'neogeography' and the democratisation of participation. This in turn has created the potential for an 'insurrection of knowledges' in which GIS platforms allow for the expression of a variety of knowledges creating a more level playing field for comparing consensus and division. In turn allowing for a wider exploration of the cultural and political conditions that direct human understandings of the environment. These 'counter-maps' which express local knowledges in cartographic form can be a powerful tool in promoting the rights of communities. This paper seeks to show the ways in which they have been used in Latin America to go beyond spatial representations and towards eliciting competing localities and grounded truths which enunciate and draw conflict to the centre of attention.

Tackling the problem of reach: a neighborhood knowledge collective in-the-making

Authors: Sanne Raap (Maastricht University) email
Mare Knibbe (Mastricht University) email
Klasien Horstman (Maastricht University) email
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Short abstract

In this paper we will provide an analysis of a citizen's knowledge collective in-the-making. The so-called knowledge laboratory changes locations and relations of knowledge exchange; from city centre to neighbourhood, from dissemination to conversation and from matters of fact to matters of concern.

Long abstract

People in low-income neighbourhoods have poorer health than people from middle- and high-income households. The question of how to engage, or, put in more distant vocabulary, 'reach' the people in low-income neighbourhoods therefore constantly occupies health-experts that aim to deploy their professional knowledge to educate lay-citizens. Despite much effort however, these groups seem to benefit least from professional knowledge.

In our ethnographic study on resilient neighbourhoods we investigate the dynamics of health, participation and knowledge in three low-income neighbourhoods in the city of Maastricht, the Netherlands. In cooperation with the neighbourhoods, we organize knowledge laboratories on topics related to health and well-being. The project reverses the problem of reach and takes the local perspective: public space in low-income neighbourhoods does not ordinarily cater for an informal exchange of ideas with a university professor.

The knowledge laboratory changes locations and relations of knowledge exchange; from city centre to neighbourhood, from dissemination to conversation and from matters of fact to matters of concern (Latour 2004). We will focus on the knowledge-practices that take place in this re-constellation between 'health-experts' and neighbourhood during the first year of the project. How do participants make translations between medical and lay-perspectives, and academic and neighbourhood-knowledge? What distinctions between participants will be endorsed and what (epistemic) hierarchies will be evened out? We will provide an analysis of how participants as bearers of (local) knowledge perform symmetry and difference in their interactions and what this entails for the neighbourhood knowledge collective in-the-making (Callon 2004, Mol 2008, Latour 2007).

Making spaces of participation: an enquiry into researchers' and practice actors' narrations of participatory knowledge production in sustainability research

Authors: Livia Fritz (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) email
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Short abstract

We enquire into the making participation in 5 research projects of a funding program for sustainability research. Guided by the concept of relational space, we explore narrations of scientific and local actors on the constitution of participation and the role of their respective knowledge therein.

Long abstract

In the field of sustainability, scholars and policy-makers alike attach high expectations to the inclusion of local knowledge in both governance and research processes and herald the power of discursive, participatory processes in facilitating societal learning. Despite this widespread call for co-productionist and transdisciplinary approaches in search for more 'robust' knowledge, critical theoretical reflections on the meanings and practices of participation and knowledge integration in different scientific and political contexts are scant. In this contribution, we complement accounts on the "what" of participation (often expressed in intensities) with an empirical enquiry into practices of participatory knowledge production in sustainability research. Borrowing from the concept of "relational space" as a framing perspective on participation, this paper analyses perceptions of both scientific and non-scientific actors on the constitution of spaces of participation at the science-society interface. In our empirical enquiry into participation "in the making" in selected projects of a German funding scheme for sustainability research, we (i) explore meanings that scientific and non-scientific actors attach to participation, (ii) provide insights into the elements that non-scientific and scientific actors perceive as constitutive of spaces of participation in knowledge production and (iii) ask how actors position themselves and their knowledge vis-à-vis the respective "others" in participation spaces. Based on these empirical enquiries we aim to develop further the conceptual perspective of participation as space which, we hope, contributes to a more differentiated basis for discussing the potential transformative power of participatory knowledge production.

Revisiting the 'thought styles' of Ludwik Fleck (1935): tracing knowledge transfer across 'thought collectives'

Authors: Maurice Skelton (ETH Zurich) email
David N Bresch (ETH Zurich/MeteoSwiss) email
Suraje Dessai (University of Leeds) email
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Short abstract

We use Fleck's (1935) 'thought styles' to characterise the relationship between practitioners' thinking and knowledges in urban heat adaptation, and 'thought collectives' to understand fluidity and tension when knowledge crosses thought collectives.

Long abstract

How do local and scientific knowledges circulate among different communities of practice? What influences its uptake or resistance? Using Ludwik Fleck's (1935) concept of 'thought styles' (Denkstil) and 'thought collectives' (Denkkollektiv), we trace how knowledges on urban heat is reframed, reviewed, negotiated and reconfigured moving from one thought collective to another. We judge adaptation to urban heat as a good study object for local knowledges, as conflict of aims are inevitable in a densely populated space, making coordination and stakeholder participation necessary. What, then, is the role of knowledge in this process? Barrier or facilitator? What knowledge is stabilised and accepted across thought collectives, and why?

Essentially, we use Ludwik Fleck's concepts in two ways. One, we take Fleck's 'thought styles' to analyse stakeholders' particular relationship between knowledge and thinking in more detail. Here we triangulate documentary materials and semi-structured interviews, focusing on the way knowledge guides problem-framing and anticipated solutions. Preliminary findings indicate that e.g. ecologists' thinking is driven more by the ethical-moral principle of biodiversity conservation, whereas environmental consultants' thinking is influenced more by 'facts' and the project's deliverables. Two, using Fleck's 'thought collectives' we explore how knowledge is stabilised within and across communities of practice. In addition to the analysis of interviews and documentary materials, we run a series of transdisciplinary workshops with selected members of thought collectives to observe their interactions. Through this research intervention, we want to gain deeper insight in the role of knowledge as a mediator or barrier between thought collectives.

The meshwork of local knowledge co-production

Author: Nicole Klenk (University of Toronto) email
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Short abstract

Meshwork refers to how individuals and knowledges are entanglements that emerge through encounters with others, as "lines of becoming." It is a useful metaphor to help us become skilled in the recursive practice of learning from difference to explore how science might be done differently.

Long abstract

In the global environmental change research community, local knowledge is viewed as a necessary input into problem framing and the crafting of locally appropriate "actionable" science. In this co-production approach, local knowledge systems are often parsed and transformed to fit within the epistemological premises of western science. Such extractive processes treat local knowledge as an object for science, rather than as systems of knowledges that could inform science. In this paper I explore the social conditions under which shared knowledge becomes defined, produced, reproduced, and distributed (or repressed and eliminated) in struggles for legitimacy between different ways of knowing in global environmental change research. To do this I propose using the 'meshwork' metaphor to describe how individuals and knowledges are entanglements that emerge through encounters with others, as 'lines of becoming.' Ingold (2011) proposed using the 'meshwork' metaphor to characterize the trails along which knowledge develops, which have histories, stories, and trajectories that are full of loose ends and always on the move. From this perspective, local knowledge systems grow and become integrated horizontally, or 'alongly.' The meshwork metaphor is useful to help us understand and become skilled in the recursive practice of learning from local knowledge systems to explore how science might be done differently.

When knowledge is not there yet: a semiotic approach to risk

Author: Davide Orsini (Mississippi State University) email
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Short abstract

This paper examines the material process that allow both experts and non-experts to represent and objectify invisible risks in situations of uncertainty. The analysis aims to question the frequently postulated internal coherence and uniqueness of lay and expert ways of knowing.

Long abstract

In this paper I analyze the patchwork practices through which local activists select and rearrange heterogeneous and contradictory information (expert discourses, sensorial experiences, and environmental knowledge) to build coherent technopolitical arguments against the risk of radioactive contamination around nuclear installations. The case study focuses on sociotechnical controversies around the presence of US Navy base for nuclear submarines installed on the Archipelago of La Maddalena, Sardinia (Italy) between 1972 and 2008. While Italian experts' assessments have routinely excluded the presence of radioactive contamination in the surrounding environment, unprecedented events, such as unexpected rates of birth defects, have introduced elements of uncertainty about the status and efficacy of expert knowledge.

Instead of assuming pre-existing and incommensurable ways of knowing separating experts and non-experts, I ask: what are the processes that allow actors involved in sociotechnical controversies to make invisible risks like radiation visible? Using the concept of "abduction" theorized by pragmatist philosopher Charles Peirce, I examine how both local communities and scientists understand the consequences of radioactive contamination by interpreting changes in the environment and unprecedented events, for which neither experts nor local residents have plausible explanations. My second contribution is to study risk historically by showing how its meanings in specific cultural and environmental contexts change over time as news signs become available for interpretation. This theoretical and methodological approach aims to destabilize the often taken for granted categories of experts and non-experts, and the frequently postulated internal coherence and uniqueness of lay and expert ways of knowing.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.