Ethnographies of knowledge

Jochen Bonz (University of Hildesheim)
Gheorghita Geana (Academia Romana)
Royal Fort Drawing
Start time:
19 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Culture and knowledge are strongly related concepts. If we understand culture no longer as a holistic system of knowledge but as a dynamic and multiple network, for example, how should we conceptualise knowledge and its subjects? The workshop deals with empirical data from diverse cultural fields.

Long abstract:

In the 1920s and 1930s philosophers and sociologists started to conceptualise and examine knowledge as a sociological fact. Since that time sociological research into forms of knowledge has grown continuously and has undergone several shifts in paradigms. Remember, for example, Berger/Luckman's turn towards a perspective on society as implicit knowledge; or the constructionist turn towards practices that result from implicit systems of knowledge (see Bourdieu's concept of habit, for example). What has remained the same is the assumption that there is knowledge. But how can we be so sure about this? This question is meant as a provocation, of course. To assume that there is knowledge means to assume that there is a subject of knowledge. This assumption corresponds to a definition of culture as a symbolic order, a holistic totality. Nowadays this idea of culture is replaced by more dynamic and open concepts. Concerning knowledge, this shift at the level of the conceptualisation of culture resulted in the idea of knowledge as something very dynamic, too (see Latour's idea of variable ontologies, for example). Sociology has not, until now, asked about the subject of these dynamics. Do they implicate a subject in permanent change of habit? Does the assumption of knowledge as highly dynamic imply the assumption of a subject in permanent change of habit? Does the assumption of culture as translation (Bhabha) or as mediation or negotiation (Latour) imply a conceptualisation of subjectivity as translator or mediator? And if so, what does this mean? In this workshop we will have presentations of empirical work from different fields: scenes of popular culture or esoteric lifestyles, academic disciplines, political institutions or the economy. All presentations should deal with such questions as: Is 'system of knowledge' any longer an adequate term to describe implicit forms of knowledge? Do the subjects of (a particular) knowledge feel comfortable with or unsure about their knowledge? Are there different kinds of implicit knowledge or different relations towards knowledge which could be understood as different subject positions?