Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge

By David Turnbull | Go to book overview

1

‘ON WITH THE MOTLEY’: THE CONTINGENT ASSEMBLAGE OF KNOWLEDGE SPACES

To us, science, art, ideology, law, religion, technology, mathematics, even nowadays ethics and epistemology, seem genuine enough genres of cultural expression to lead us to ask (and ask and ask) to what degree other peoples possess them and to the degree they do possess them, what form do they take, and given the form they take, what light has that to shed on our own versions of them. 1


Comparing Knowledge Traditions

This chapter develops the argument that an explicit focus on the localness of knowledge production provides the possibility of a fully-fledged comparison between the ways in which understandings of the natural world have been produced by different cultures and at different times. Cross-cultural comparisons of knowledge traditions have hitherto been largely absent from SSK. 2 A necessary condition for fully equitable comparison is that Western contemporary technosciences, rather than being taken as definitional of knowledge, rationality or objectivity, should be treated as varieties of such knowledge systems. Though knowledge systems may differ in their epistemologies, methodologies, logics, cognitive structures or in their socio-economic contexts, a characteristic that they all share is their localness. However, knowledge is not simply local, it is located. It is both situated and situating. It has place and creates a space. An assemblage is made up of linked sites, people and activities; in a very important and profound sense, the creation of an assemblage is the creation of a knowledge space. The motley of scientific practice, its situated messiness, is given a spatial coherence through the social labour of creating equivalences and connections. Such knowledge spaces acquire their taken for granted air and seemingly unchallengeable naturalness through the suppression and denial of work involved in their construction. However, since they are motleys, they are polysemous and are capable of many possible modes of assemblage and of providing alternative interpretations and meanings. Hence all knowledge spaces are potential sites of resistance, as will be seen in the Chapter 3.

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Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - On with the Motley 19
  • 2 - Talk, Templates and Tradition 53
  • 3 - Tricksters and Cartographers 89
  • 4 - Pacific Navigation 131
  • 5 - Making Malaria Curable 161
  • 6 - Messiness and Order in Turbulence Research 183
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 259
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