“Reoxygenating” Research

By Laura G. Goetz

In a world in which politicians and media outlets are spreading “alternative facts,” detached objectivity may be an elusive and undesirable basis for a scientific gold standard. Context matters, both for the questions we ask and the answers we obtain. Separating science from society is no longer an option, because knowledge loses its power if people do not care about it. In Meeting the Universe Halfway, STS scholar Karen Barad asserts, “Matter(ing) is a dynamic articulation/configuration of the world.” Mattering requires explaining the world in a way that can move within the world. Scientific researchers need to think about the questions that matter and how to disseminate their results beyond the confines of academic journals and indices. Against calls for greater isolation, science should generate evidence-based knowledge that can travel more widely.

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Thought From the Outside: Post-Truth and Cambodian Political Theater

By Casper Bruun Jensen

Post-truth, the post-factual, alternative facts. In the wake of Donald Trump’s campaign and election as president of the United States, these terms swirl around the social media and public sphere with increasing frequency. Trump’s blatant disregard for the category of facts, if not for reality itself, perplexes and infuriates his many opponents. One hears the refrain “We are entering uncharted territory.” At stake is a challenge to the long-cherished notion of speaking truth to power. If power refuses to listen, what would be the point of scientific knowledge? Just think of the unheeded warnings against global warming.

What might political life in Cambodia tell about this situation? Located around 9000 miles from Washington D.C, the modus operandi of politics in Phnom Penh confronts us with some of what Michel Foucault called “thought from the outside.” A glance at this thought might help put into sharper focus what is, and is not, unprecedented about the current American situation. For what this thought is “outside” to is, among other things, the idea that the normal state of affairs is one where scientific facts balance or constrain political power.

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