Cultures without Culturalism

The Making of Scientific Knowledge

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 26 illustrations Published: April 2017

Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies > Philosophy of Science, Sociology

Cultural accounts of scientific ideas and practices have increasingly come to be welcomed as a corrective to previous—and still widely held—theories of scientific knowledge and practices as universal. The editors caution, however, against the temptation to overgeneralize the work of culture, and to lapse into a kind of essentialism that flattens the range and variety of scientific work. The book refers to this tendency as culturalism. The contributors to the volume model a new path where historicized and cultural accounts of scientific practice retain their specificity and complexity without falling into the traps of culturalism. They examine, among other issues, the potential of using notions of culture to study behavior in financial markets; the ideology, organization, and practice of earthquake monitoring and prediction during China's Cultural Revolution; the history of quadratic equations in China; and how studying the "glass ceiling" and employment discrimination became accepted in the social sciences. Demonstrating the need to understand the work of culture as a fluid and dynamic process that directly both shapes and is shaped by scientific practice, Cultures without Culturalism makes an important intervention in science studies.

Contributors. Bruno Belhoste, Karine Chemla, Caroline Ehrhardt, Fa-ti Fan,Kenji Ito, Evelyn Fox Keller, Guillaume Lachenal, Donald MacKenzie, Mary S. Morgan, Nancy J. Nersessian, David Rabouin, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Claude Rosental, Koen Vermeir


"This wide-ranging and thought-provoking collection of essays from leading historians and philosophers of science focuses on how culture informs the study of the history of science....  Although intended for an audience of historians and philosophers of science, as well as social and cultural historians, the book will also be a valuable resource for science studies, anthropology, feminist studies, and a host of other academic specialties concerned with epistemology or historiography.... Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; researchers and faculty." — T. Timmons, Choice

"Cultures without Culturalism is an important work in the history, sociology, and philosophy of science. The book does a service to our field by advancing the discussions on scientific cultures, a long-standing topic, to a level that closely engages current historiography and scholarship." — Chen-Pang Yeang, East Asian Science, Technology and Society

"Showcases an impressive breadth of scholarship." — Alfred Freeborn, Journal for General Philosophy of Science

"This rich collection's stellar group of essays, framed by Karine Chemla and Evelyn Fox Keller's authoritative introduction, will be of great interest to science studies and the history and philosophy of science as well as anthropologists and cultural historians working in those fields." — Judith Farquhar, author of Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China

Cultures without Culturalism takes the critique of scientific universality and uniformity seriously. The collection provides elegant and rich resources for thinking about, through, and with scientific practice in many diverse times and places. It convinces us to examine the dynamics of scientific practice as they include and exclude what is studied, how it is studied, and who does the studying. The book makes a vibrant contribution to understanding how scientific cultures seep, share, coproduce, borrow, and ultimately mutate.” — Rayna Rapp, author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Karine Chemla is Senior Researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University Paris Diderot and University Paris Panthéon Sorbonne.

Evelyn Fox Keller is Professor Emerita of the History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction / Karine Chemla and Evelyn Fox Keller  1
Part I. Stating the Problem: Cultures without Culturation
1. On Invokcing "Culture" in the Analysis of Behavior in Financial Markets / Donald MacKenzie  29
2. Cultural Difference and Sameness: Historiographic Reflections on Histories of Physics in Modern Japan / Kenji Ito  49
3. The Cultural Politics of an African AIDS Vaccine: The Vanhivax Controversy in Cameroon, 2001-2011 / Guillaume Lachenal  69
4. Worrying about Essentialism: From Feminist Theory to Epistemological Cultures / Evelyn Fox Keller  99
Part II. Distinguishing the Many Dimensions of Encultured Practice
5. Hybrid Devices: Embodiments of Culture in Biomedical Engineering / Nancy J. Nesessian  117
6. Glass Ceilings and Sticky Floors: Drawing New Ontologies / Mary S. Morgan  145
7. Modes of Exchange: The Culture and Politics of Public Demonstrations / Claude Rosental  170
8. Styles in Mathematical Practice / David Rabouin  196
Part III. The Making of Scientific Cultures
9. Historicizing Culture: A Revaluation of Early Modern Science and Culture / Koen Vermeir  227
10. From Quarry to Paper: Cuvier's Three Epistemological Cultures / Bruno Belhoste  250
11. Cultures of Experimentation / Hans-Jörg Rheinberger  278
12. The People's War against Earthquakes: Cultures of Mass Science in Mao's China / Fa-ti Fan  296
Part IV. What Is at Stake?
13. E Uno Plures? Unity and Diversity in Galois Theory, 1832-1900 / Caroline Ehrhardt  327
14. Changing Mathematical Cultures, Conceptual History, and the Circulation of Knowledge: A Case Study Based on Mathematical Sources from Ancient China / Karine Chemla  352
Contributors  399
Index  403
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Named a 2017 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6372-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6356-9