Science and the State 

Introduction to Special Issue by Alondra Nelson et al: “…Current events have thrown these debates into high relief. Pressing issues from the pandemic to anthropogenic climate change, and the new and old inequalities they exacerbate, have intensified calls to critique but also imagine otherwise the relationship between scientific and state authority. Many of the subjects and communities whose well-being these authorities claim to promote have resisted, doubted, and mistrusted technoscientific experts and government officials. How might our understanding of the relationship change if the perspectives and needs of those most at risk from state and/or scientific violence or neglect were to be centered? Likewise, the pandemic and climate change have reminded scientists and state officials that relations among states matter at home and in the world systems that support supply chains, fuel technology, and undergird capitalism and migration. How does our understanding of the relationship between science and the state change if we eschew the nationalist framing of the classic Mertonian formulation and instead account for states in different parts of the world, as well as trans-state relationships?
This special issue began as a yearlong seminar on Science and the State convened by Alondra Nelson and Charis Thompson at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. During the 2020–21 academic year, seventeen scholars from four continents met on a biweekly basis to read, discuss, and interrogate historical and contemporary scholarship on the origins, transformations, and sociopolitical
consequences of different configurations of science, technology, and governance. Our group consisted of scholars from different disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, history, political science, and geography. Examining technoscientific expertise and political authority while experiencing the conditions of the pandemic exerted a heightened sense of the stakes concerned and forced us to rethink easy critiques of scientific knowledge and state power. Our affective and lived experiences of the pandemic posed questions about what good science and good statecraft could be. How do we move beyond a presumption of isomorphism between “good” states and “good” science to understand and study the uneven experiences and sometimes exploitative practices of different configurations of science and the state?…(More)”.

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