- IntroductionIntroducing Knowledge That Matters
As we read the many pieces submitted for this special issue, “Knowledge That Matters: Feminist Epistemology, Methodology, and Science Studies,” we found we needed multiple literacies to understand the numerous types of writing and art. The transdisciplinarity of this volume stretched us, as we found ourselves reading contributions that spanned feminist political economy, feminist deconstruction, feminist ethnography, feminist sociology of knowledge, and the masculinist history of demography, and explored other, less nameable intersections of social and political worlds we thought perhaps could not be encompassed in one volume. Many authors set out to put disparate conceptual frameworks into conversation with one another, or to reframe ongoing conversations in their social worlds. All the work centrally concerns knowledge that somehow matters to feminists. Taking as a basic feminist tenet that all knowledge is situated within the social conditions of its production, we chose pieces that illustrate the multiple perspectives from which the world and its knowers are co-constituted. Most of the artists and authors raise epistemological questions that were simultaneously about particular modes of expertise within the politics of knowledge. Readers will no doubt encounter some of the pleasures and pains we encountered as we sought to make sense of multiplicity. While you may sometimes get lost among these selections, we assure you that your efforts will be worth your while.
Feminist questions about science and knowledge somehow keep coming down to “Science for whom?” What counts as “science” for whom? Whose “sciences” count as Science? Whose sciences become “usable knowledge”? Whose sciences are “translated” into technology? Although such questions are epistemological, they also concern basic inequalities that underlie the social reproduction of particular communities of practice who “do” science: the research and development enterprises that translate science into concrete technologies and science and technology policy that governs these arenas. [End Page xi] One of the basic contentions of feminist science and technology studies (STS) has been that the political economy of technoscience should be restructured so as to enable the production of technologies and sciences that are more relevant to a wider swath of the world’s people, better able to serve the advocacy goals of movements for social and economic justice, and better distributed in terms of public goods. Feminist epistemologists have argued that what science is done and what questions are considered relevant—which kinds of knowledges matter—is a negotiated product of particular ways of knowing that have been generated from particular social locations.
Knowledge that matters was the theme of the conference at the core of this special issue, the February 2007 meeting of a loose confederation of feminist scholars who meet every other year under the rubric of Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics, and Science Studies (FEMMSS). One of the most exciting developments passionately discussed at the 2007 gathering was the deeply reflective work on research methodology being conducted by those who accept Sandra Harding’s argument that standpoint theory is not just an epistemology, but a research methodology.1 Since it is not our purpose to engage in a philosophical conversation on standpoint epistemology in this brief introduction, we set out the deceptively simple tenets of standpoint-directed research that we carried away from that conference:
1. Start from the lives of those with whom you work, and produce scholarship that is for them rather than for the purposes central to the administrative and political relations of ruling institutions that contribute to such relations.2 Feminist philosophers, historians, psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have produced five decades of scholarship on the extent to which the nineteenth-century disciplines that still organize our thought and research lives have been complicit with ruling relations. To the extent that our work provides the technologies and techniques by which populations are managed and administered, the knowledge that we produce is clearly not advocating for the actual empowerment of those whom we typically study.
2. Study up. To take a stand on the side of those who are not “up,” not just to “include their voices,” but to eliminate racist, sexist, classist, and heteronormative institutional practices that construct and perpetuate invidious social hierarchies, the...