So Many Boundaries... Recent Ideologies and Ideologies of Expertise

Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 10:00am

This workshop brought together scholars focused on the historical meanings of expertise in science, technology or medicine. The goal was to probe, as a group, how different constituencies have historically defined and deployed expert knowledge in science, technology and medicine, looking at producer and consumers of such knowledge and the lines drawn, in different historical settings, between those categories. The organizers believed that there are growing commitments to expertise as a lens on the history of science, technology and medicine and in related field such as STS, and also that there are significant ideological implications to the various approaches now gaining momentum. They saw two trends in this scholarship. First, building on foundational methods of SSK, historians continue to recognize that distributions of authority surrounding claims of expertise also instantiate distributions of social power. These distributions commonly follow political, national, race, gender or other differentiations. The participants’ scholarship represents some of this work. At the same time, through such influential projects as Harry Collins and Robert Evans’ proposal of Studies of Expertise and Experience (SEE) as new analytical instrument, the organizers detect a reification of positivist and essentialist ideas about knowledge that naturalize those social distributions, foreclosing that first kind of inquiry. This workshop offered an opportunity to interrogate these apparently opposed approaches, and frame terms in which this tension can be constructively explored. The goal was to provide participants with a forum to work through these issues as they affect their own interpretive problems. Principal Organizers: Amy Slaton, Drexel University Darin Hayton, Haverford College Participants: John Ceccatti, University of Pennsylvania/NAS Ben Chesluk, American Board of Internal Medicine Bob Crease, SUNY Stony Brook Mary Ebeling, Drexel University Michael Gordin, Princeton University Scott Knowles, Drexel University George Laufenberg, Princeton University Paolo Milani, University of Milan Joanna Radin, University of Pennsylvania