Matters of Emergenc/y: Breakdown, Crisis and the Production of Scientific Knowledge

Center for Gender in a Global Context
February 28, 2020

Environmental crisis, financial crisis, states of emergency and urgency: crisis forms the backdrop of contemporary debates about the role of science and technology in society. Sharing her ethnographic fieldwork in oceanographic and climate-oriented research endeavors over the better part of the last decade, Stephanie will discuss modes of knowledge production in the current landscape as a shift from matters of fact, to concern, to care and now what she calls “matters of emergenc/y”. This talk will explore new questions concerning the practices of knowledge production, disaster and crisis STS with studies of temporality to emphasize the role of various political, environmental, and financial crises that restructure the scientific landscape through events with long-lasting repercussions. Why is it important to acknowledge that knowledge gets made differently in breakdown and to be attentive to who and what is in our skeleton crews and our emergency teams and our advisory committees? In times of crisis, we make decisions quickly, under irregular conditions, that may go against or undermine their stated visions. There are new temporalities at play that can set into action longstanding norms and new standards. When decisions need to get made quickly, we need to be aware of who is making them, who and what gets privileged over other things, who gets to make the rash decisions and final calls, what they care about, what their accountability structures are. In fast times, we need to consider care – who and what are we caring for in these decisions over other things? What falls out of favor? What never returns? Who has the time to care?