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Trading with the Enemy Peter Galison One way to think through what a concept like the trading zone does is to press objections against it, for only then do sharpened boundaries pull foreground from background . Analyzing such confrontations tracks my ideas about these scientific subcultures and exchange languages. But because it is sometimes useful to start with the history of a concept, I want to begin there—and then follow the history into more analytical territory. What grabbed me most in Marx’s work—and the history of work more generally— was certainly not the labor theory of value and the interminable battles over its limits. Instead, what impressed me were the discussions of machines: the descriptions of looms and labor, the vivid depiction of how bosses drove down the number of cubic feet of air that weaving girls had in their quarters. Among the historians who were current when I was starting out, it was the work of the Annales School I liked best: the history of how medieval land was ploughed (Marc Bloch); how rice fields were easier to police than the hill towns of Tuscany (Fernand Braudel). I liked seeing how work worked—how cars were pounded together, mine faces stripped of coal, and secretarial work narrowed. Studies like those by Harry Braverman (Labor and Monopoly Capital, 1974) intrigued me; so too did the great historical studies by E. P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class (1966). It was the actual scientific work that I wanted to get at in writing about the history of science—and such a history of science seemed impossible to achieve if one ignored the laboratory. I was utterly transfixed by these experimental spaces; I had spent a year in a plasma physics lab studying ion waves, and several months in an applied physics lab trying to figure out how to best spray water to keep a miniature, idealized house from burning to the ground. I had studied with a truly great experimental physicist, Robert Pound, and watched, riveted, as he, a true master, plucked electrical signals out of the noise. 3 26 Peter Galison In How Experiments End (1987), I wanted, above all, to capture the weight that experimental practice had as a distinct form of reasoning—a form of reasoning not reducible to inspiring theory or checking after the fact. On the contrary, the point was to show how experiments really did move to a rhythm distinct from that of theory, that experimentalists’ decision that they’d seen something real (for example) was not grounded on the same standards and forms of argumentation that satisfied theorists that they had found a bona fide effect. It was this quasi-autonomy that led me away from the then overwhelmingly popular Kuhnian picture of mutually incomprehensible paradigms. I just didn’t see the experimentalists finding incommensurability in their practices before and after theoretical breaks such as the 1905 advent of special relativity. During that period—late 1970s and early 1980s—the laboratory and the experiment were discussed more often in science studies. But as much as I objected to the marginalization of experiment in favor of theory, I also bridled at the reanimated reductive form of positivism that dismissed theory and theorists, placing reality in experiment above all else. Theory, like experiment, had its own culture of demonstration, its own short-, middle-, and long-term constraint structure that characterized what it meant to be a theorist. By the time I published How Experiments End, I had a picture of three intercalated, quasi-autonomous subcultures of theory, experiment, and instrument making. So far, so good. But then I got good and stuck. Here was the problem. On the one hand we had the Kuhnian picture of paradigmatic splits—revolutions—that thoroughly and unbridgeably cleaved science onto one side or the other of a great divide. This view was taken up with increasing frequency even among my allies in the new and burgeoning field of laboratory studies. On the other hand, I saw the weight given to experimental culture as pulling in another direction—toward the intercalated picture of three subcultures that I hoped would better capture the phenomenology of scientists’ experience—scientists who seemed very rarely to have seen themselves as forever banished from the far shores created by a putative epistemic split. In 1988, I reported on where I was with this train of thought about intercalation, rupture, and continuity in my essay “History, Philosophy, and the Central Metaphor.” In...


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