Reference : Emerging Patterns of Depoliticization and Engagement to Inform the Future of Science an...
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference
Law, criminology & political science : Political science, public administration & international relations
Emerging Patterns of Depoliticization and Engagement to Inform the Future of Science and Technology Studies: A Case Study in Nanotechnologies
Thoreau, François mailto [Université de Liège - ULg > Département de science politique > Gouvernance et société >]
Futures of Social Sciences and Humanities
28 October 2009
[en] Nanotechnologies ; Science and Technology Studies (STS)
[en] In this paper, we address the issue of the future of a particular field of research in social science: Science and Technology Studies (STS). Although this is a very young research field, its history is already diverse and its evolutions are fastly moving on. Its rapid expansion and its characteristic feature of crossing disciplinary boundaries are making it an interesting case to study, which takes a particular place in the overall history – and future – of social changes. As we shall indicate, STS have an increasing committment for the resolution of sociotechnical controversies. In this paper, we problematise this particular position by underlying the implicit politics of STS research and how they will shape the future of that particular field.
Our approach is threefold. First, we give a brief overview of the history of the field and we point out the main evolutions since the developement of the Social Construction of Technology approach (SCOT) in the 1980s that long influenced the field. By doing so, we underline the epistemological critical tradition that gave the field some of its particularities that we address. We show how this tradition brought important insights of “political” nature within the development of the field.
Second, our ambition is to highlight new patterns of evolution of the STS field, emphasizing the trends towards both a greater depoliticisation and a more engaged research. By “depoliticisation”, we intend to analyse the dynamics of institutionalisation of the field which adopts resources and tools to legitimate itself among the social scientific community. By “engaged” research, we will explore the evolutions of the STS field as inherently political. The field does have an implicit statement in favor of changing social order and an increasing willingness to actually influence that social change. In that respect, research projects in STS often have underlying politics, as we shall demonstrate.
Third, we give a concrete example of these new patterns occuring, relying on the growing importance of nanotechnologies, both in the STS literature and research projects. We consider this case study to be intertwined with the development of STS as a field of research. In that sense, we stress that nanotechnologies happened to be a powerful tool for legitimation for the STS community. Therefore, we — as STS scholars — suggest instrumentalizing the interest we have in nanotechnologies in order to observe the evolutions of our field of research. Then, nanotechnologies will constitute an interesting ground to perform a test that will show depoliticisation and engagement as patterning the STS field.
Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (Communauté française de Belgique) - F.R.S.-FNRS
Futures of Social Sciences and Humanities - SSH

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