Politics of the knowledge - Essay Example

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Sandra Harding and Donna Haraway are eminent social scientists who believe that the inherent objectivity that lies within social and scientific research needs to be reassessed as it does not take into…
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Politics of the knowledge
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The scientific and social knowledge is facing serious feminist challenge. Sandra Harding and Donna Haraway are eminent social scientists who believe that the inherent objectivity that lies within social and scientific research needs to be reassessed as it does not take into consideration the fundamental differences between the two sexes. They believe that the contemporary knowledge is androcentric and lacks authentic perspective of women. A set of dualism exists within the knowledge that is overpowered by the androcentric viewpoint, thus creating biases that adversely impact the truth or the authenticity of the scientific knowledge. The two scientists strongly contest the objectivity of the contemporary knowledge and advocate new model of knowledge acquisition that encompasses feminist constructivist views and thereby delineating gender biases.
Harding (1986) asserts that feminist theorists are objective in their hypotheses which are ‘free of gender loyalties’ (p. 138). At the same time, they also tend to ensure that women’s activities are fully represented within the broader scope of the social relation with the existing environment. The Marxist’s analysis of bourgeois labor becomes contentious as it ignores women’s experiences and therefore, need to be redefined to include women’s contribution to social life at all levels of interaction. Harding says that while subjectivity is inherent in the feminist epistemologies, the cultural production of gender identity necessitates greater understanding of changing social structure that ‘resists the continuation of the distorting dualities of modernism’ (p. 161). She emphasizes that feminist empiricism is pertinent as it challenges the androcentric biases. Indeed, women as enquirer considerably enhance objectivity of science.
Haraway (1988) posits objectivity at the center of her arguments as male dominancy at all levels of scientific knowledge promotes biases in social constructions of not only identities but also in the social activities. She believes that feminist objectivity would help to translate knowledge across communities and power differentiated groups in a bias free manner. She says that more critical theories are required to construct meaning in order to ‘build meanings and bodies that have a chance for life’ (p. 25). The feminist objectivity highlights ‘situated knowledges’ (p. 26) that encourages paradoxical perspectives within scientific enquiry. She insists that there is no room for relativism within knowledge as it blurs the reality and gives it an ambiguity that envelops scientific knowledge with doubts. Feminist objectivity is embedded in rational approach which promotes ongoing critical interpretation of social dynamics by interpreters and decoders.
Both the social scientists stress the importance of feminist objectivity as critical element of scientific and social knowledge. Indeed, the objectivity of scientific knowledge within the changing landscape of contemporary world is vital to understand the changes and the unexpected openings that situated knowledge makes possible. It looks at social and scientific enquiry with a more rational approach and facilitates broader scope of objective interpretation. Though both the authors have raised the issue of ‘body’ of the enquirer, it is important that knowledge overcome the biases of gender and sexes by constructing meanings in bodies and applying the same in the knowledge. It can therefore be concluded that the epistemology of feminist objectivity lies in the situated knowledge that encompasses changing environment and promotes rational outlook.
(words: 533)
Harding, Sandra G. (1986) From Feminist empiricism to Feminist Standpoint Epistemologies. In Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism, (pp 136-162). NY: Cornell University Press.
Haraway, Donna. (1988). Situated Knowledge: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 21-46. Read More
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