ASA Decennial Conference - Anthropology and Science

Opening plenary

Living science

Marilyn Strathern

Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Science and Society programmes seem to spring up on all sides. In summoning the combined skills of experts and non-experts alike, they try to make Society be as explicit about itself as Science is assumed to be. There is considerable interest here for a Social Anthropology engaged with what is made explicit and what is left implicit. Anthropologists frequently claim of 'other societies' that knowledge is embedded in habits and practices which render it implicit. If the claim were to be repeated for Western Science in its societies of origin, where would look for a tacit or embodied science?

Bios today

Paul Rabinow

Department of Anthropology, University of California

Although there is a widespread consensus that major changes are taking place in the life sciences and that many domains of life are now permeated with power and economic relations, there has been little consensus about how best to frame these changes. The recent success of Negri and Hardt's Empire or Agamben's Homo Sacer point to the interest in the topic. These works, however, contradict each other and more importantly stand in a tension with Foucault's ever so sketchy use of the term 'bio-power.' My paper will explore this terrain and propose some possible ways forward.

Setting standards and reading signs

Simon Schaffer

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University Cambridge

Two apparently contrasted accounts of European natural sciences and their work have recently been produced by historians. One emphasises the role of standardisation, the institutionalisation of large-scale and long-range systems for precision comparison and gauging through evaluation and exact analysis. The other account emphasises the role of tracking, of the skilful ability to trace pathways and to diagnose behaviour on the basis of outward and visible marks. Both these endeavours owe much to anthropology's history, and may in turn illuminate that history. In particular, exploring the work of standardising and of tracking might help a better account of relations between European sciences and other forms of knowledge.