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Mobilizing Science: Movements, Participation, and the Remaking of Knowledge

Sabrina McCormick

Publication Year: 2009

Mobilizing Science theoretically and empirically explores the rise of a new kind of social movement—one that attempts to empower citizens through the use of expert scientific research. Sabrina McCormick advances theories of social movements, development, and science and technology studies by examining how these fields intersect in cases around the globe.


McCormick grounds her argument in two very different case studies: the anti-dam movement in Brazil and the environmental breast cancer prevention movement in the U.S.  These, and many other cases, show that the scientization of society, where expert knowledge is inculcated in multiple institutions and lay people are marginalized, gives rise to these new types of movements.  While activists who consequently engage in science often instigate new methods that result in new findings and scientific tools, these movements still often fail due to superficial participatory institutions and tightly knit corporate/government relationships. 

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. v

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pp. 1-22

Claudia’s¹ graying teeth and limp hair meant she came from the farmlands. Periods of intense drought made food scarce and nutrition limited. Those farmlands, I had heard, bred some of the most radical protestors. Claudia was a perfect example. A righteous attitude complemented her stubborn nature. Taking no for an answer was never an option. She told me that...

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Chapter 1: Democratizing Science Movements: Conditions for Success and Failure

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pp. 23-46

This chapter describes what democratizing science movements attempt to do and why they may fail. Scholars have begun to report on these movements around the world and to theorize movement functioning. I build on their work to create a general typology of democratizing science movements. Although they may have very diverse goals, I argue that they have a common...

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Chapter 2: The Environmental Breast Cancer Movement and the Scientific Basis for Contestation

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pp. 47-60


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Chapter 3: Dam Impacts and Anti-dam Protest

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pp. 61-73

Slight, young, and as blonde as his German ancestors, Marcio

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Chapter 4: Government Institutions and Corporate Interests: Instigating Movement Challenge

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pp. 74-94

One central reason that the anti- dam movement and the environmental breast cancer movement have engaged in science is their need to contest corporate interests that control it. Corporations fund and often shape the environmental impact assessments on which dam policy is based (Fearnside 2006), and consulting companies funded by industry test chemical safety...

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Chapter 5: Democratizing Science

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pp. 95-125


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Chapter 6: Democratizing Science as a Mechanism of Co-optation

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pp. 126-141

Covered in dust from desertlike lands, Celia

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Chapter 7: Long-Term Struggles and Uncertain Futures

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pp. 142-164

What does the future hold for demo cratizing science movements? Are we headed in a direction where science can serve as a pathway for democracy, or will it continue often to limit citizen influence? A plethora of the most controversial recent social debates have begged this question—from those over end-of-life decisions that the Terri Schiavo case...

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Chapter 8: A Case for Making Science Accountable

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pp. 165-176

Democratizing science movements are emerging around the world. Genetically modified organisms, nanotechnology, cloning, and many other ethically charged scientific advances are surrounded by conflict between their producers and consumers. These debates beg important questions about ownership, government oversight, and the role of civil society in...

Appendix: Abbreviations

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pp. 177-178


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pp. 179-204


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pp. 205-212

E-ISBN-13: 9781439900116

Publication Year: 2009