Seventh Book: Another Science is Possible: A Manifesto for Slow Science
“Science needs time to think. Science needs time to read, and time to fail. Science does not always know what it might be at right now. Science develops unsteadily, with jerky moves and unpredictable leaps forward—at the same time, however, it creeps about on a very slow time scale, for which there must be room and to which justice must be done…”
— The Slow Science Manifesto, from the Slow Science Academy (2010)
In Another Science is Possible, Isabelle Stengers approaches the contemporary knowledge economy, as well as the new politics underlying public research, with clarity and sharp critique. She enters a world of competitive academic markets, increasingly casualised labour, benchmark evaluation, as well as heavy publication demands and quotas — entangling these contextual factors with the type of scholar allowed to flourish in these harsh environments, and the types of scholar who is erased in the very process. She recognises these landscapes as filled with overwhelming urgency and anxiety, ceaselessly extracting energy, spirit and motivation from those who work within the institutional field; sapping uncanniness and accidental creativity in order to produce streamlined publications, results, and projects. Furthermore, in dealing with the asymmetrical knowledges developed under models of fast science, the book carefully traces the distribution of the expertise, as well as resources, attesting to the fact that whilst we know a lot about developing material, or so-called immaterial, technologies, there is a large gap around techniques of dialogue, as well as collaborative learning, within the sciences.
Facing these shortcoming directly, Stengers instead raises the potential of a slow science; one founded on modes of enquiry which foster careful thinking; the ability to make errors and take unconventional routes; as well as foster committed relationships with the communities and subjects existing within the folds of a research project. Furthermore, she entangles the very praxis of slow science with ‘the struggle against the imperialist disqualification of non-modern ways of understanding nature’, calling for a direct break with four hundred years of technologically driven-science, geared towards industry and economic profit. This radical fissure insists on the politicisation of the very methods by which we create knowledge and the institutions that scholarly work upholds, urging for a turn towards methods which introduce an ethic of care, as well as a more humane chrono-politic. There are undertones of anti-capitalist thinking in Stengers’ work, which aims for a structural transformation, rather than merely individual action and responsibility.
The book is recommended to anyone interested in: the philosophy of science; the use of science for activism and social change; institutional cultures and attitudes; critiques of, and responses to contemporary science; disobedience and resistance; popular activism and the public sciences; anti-capitalist interventions; messy methodologies; and novel forms of experimental research.
This is our final book for the year. If you would like to join us please feel free to just show up. The link above contains a PDF download of Chapters 1, 3, 5 & an optional 6.
WHEN: Monday, 3 December, 4-6pm.
LOCATION: Meeting Room 370, Social Science Building, Camperdown Campus, USyd
(near Ross Street gateway to the Camperdown Campus.)