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How do they know? Practicing knowledge in comparative perspective

Benzecry, Claudio and Krause, Monika (2010) How do they know? Practicing knowledge in comparative perspective. Qualitative Sociology, 33 (4). pp. 415-422. ISSN 0162-0436

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11133-010-9159-8


Introduction to the special issue of Qualitative Sociology, "Knowledge in Practice" - In the past 10 years or so we have seen a convergence of interest in knowledge and practice in various substantive areas of sociological inquiry. Scholars in the tradition of science and technology studies had first shown that science and technology, too, could be subject to sociological inquiry, and then turned their attention to empirical sites beyond the natural sciences. In a separate movement, the influence of the work of Pierre Bourdieu has given new impetus to the efforts of scholars of other realms of social life to focus on the dimension of knowledge in their research. These intellectual movements added to the classical and ongoing contributions to the sociology of knowledge and culture and in the tradition of ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism. Scholars in the different traditions approaching knowledge share some common ground; yet they also draw on distinct contributions from specific scholars in different theoretical traditions. These theoretical differences can lead scholars in one school to ignore the work of other schools. More helpfully, they can provoke arguments and debate. Most importantly, we think, it is an opportunity for a discussion not just of the relative value of one theoretical approach or the other but for comparative empirical investigation into how knowledge is practiced across different empirical settings and how aspects emphasized by different approaches matter empirically. We assemble this issue with this interest in mind, with empirical contributions on such diverse topics as medicine, art, the state, financial games, science, and Buddhist meditation. Most of the papers assembled in this special issue were originally presented at the 2009 Junior Theorist Symposium, held to coincide with the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco. The symposium aims to create a space for advanced graduate students and junior faculty to focus on the conceptual and theoretical aspects of their work. The symposium itself provided further evidence of this expanding interest in knowledge—in response to a very open call for papers about “theory,” knowledge emerged as a key theme among the submissions. While this is not a representative sample, it does provide some indication of the interests of young scholars who think of their work as “theoretical”; as most of the presenters were drawing on their dissertation work, it gives some indication also as to one kind of PhD thesis being written in US sociology today. The Junior Theorist Symposium has been sponsored by the Theory Section of the ASA since 2005, and it is beginning to be the site of dialogue not just between junior theorists and senior commentators but also among different cohorts of presenters. In this spirit, we are pleased that the organizers of the very first Symposium, Neil Gross and Marion Fourcade, have agreed to contribute an afterword to this special issue. The following introduction will, very briefly, outline the trajectories of different sociologies of knowledge and introduce the articles that follow in light of some the questions raised by the dialogue between them. We are not aiming for a complete literature review on knowledge in sociology or the social studies of science and technology, but rather to show the diverse strains that have been appropriated by scholars who discuss the production, dissemination and consumption of knowledge as a practical activity.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2016 15:26
Last Modified: 27 May 2024 22:57

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