Essay on A Cultural Anthropological Study Of Western Science

Essay on A Cultural Anthropological Study Of Western Science

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Fueled by diminishing comments about anthropology lacking the structure associated with natural sciences juxtaposed with recent advancements of anthropology gaining recognition as a social science, Emily Martin took on the goal to conduct a cultural anthropological study of Western science. People tend to put science on a pedestal, believing it conveys undeniable, infallible truth. This belief may have contributed to Martin’s worry of being too subjective in her study of science. She stated, “My initial worry was that I would not be able to get outside science in order to talk about it. I found that indeed I could not, but that is because science is not located where we thought it was” (Martin 39-40). However, Martin discovered her initial concern of distancing herself from the field enough to objectively study it was ill founded; for, the interrelationship between culture and science makes it implausible and unhelpful to take an elusive stance when studying science. By examining the works of Martin, Carrithers, Hess, and Kuhn it can be seen that culture permeates science and science infiltrates culture so easily that anthropology becomes a good lens to view science through.
Before researchers begin in-depth studies of anthropology as a science or the anthropological study of science, they tend to first note how science is truly a social activity. As noted by Martin, “What sets the sciences apart is that they claim to construct reality but not to be themselves constructed” (Martin 26). This idea of science on a pedestal seems to warrant an elusive stance for the study of science, which gave rise to Martin’s concern of not being able to “get outside of science to study it”. After realizing she had a false impression of science, M...


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...ulture. Just as science is influenced by culture, the field itself has influenced culture. Anthropologists have come to care about science for two reasons. For one, the way the public regards scientific findings as ultimate, unquestionable truth allows for those involved in science to wield much power. Additionally, seeing that science is a cultural activity, anthropologists must be included in the interdisciplinary study of science. Since anthropology is used to study culture, the common methodology of ethnography can be used to research science just as it would be used to investigate other cultural activities. Martin’s statement has encouraged an analysis of the interrelationship between anthropology and science that is not only important in determining the parameters of science as a discipline, but also in discerning how and why anthropologists must study science.

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