Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Science
Secondary Theme: Policy
Following Latour’s call for studying “science in action,” this panel investigates the ways that scientific and legal forms of knowledge production are paired in order to encourage legal compliance and corresponding changes in cultural practices. Given mounting evidence of the toll that extractive capitalism takes on human bodies, animals, and the natural environment, we attend in particular to the connections between legal expertise and scientific knowledge production in contexts relating to the regulation of extractive industries. These settings include mining, agriculture, natural resource-dependent forms of manufacturing, and the extraction of human labor and genetic material. In doing so, this panel combines research in legal anthropology and science and technology studies in order to interrogate how knowledge production exists in tension between different regulatory regimes. Science and law can both seem logical and rational to outside observers, yet actual practice is often messy and incoherent. In this panel, we look at the messiness of knowledge production, focusing on the conflicts between legal and scientific knowledge, the tensions between techno-scientific regulatory frameworks and their practical application, and the ways scientific and legal practice inform one another.
Questions this panel seeks to address are: What role does scientific knowledge play in shaping the law’s function as an engine of social change? In what ways do scientific and legal bodies of knowledge shape one another, and with what effects on labor, labor practice, and interactions with the non-human elements of economic production? How might techno-scientific regulatory regimes exist in tension with the lived realities of scientific knowledge production in practice, particularly in contexts where the ideals of public discourse can come into conflict with local livelihoods?
Papers in this panel approach these themes from different theoretical approaches and global contexts. Kohler looks at the ways intensive farming practices shape new notions of toxicity in food and the legal and scientific frameworks that arise in response to new forms of food contamination in Italy. Majumder analyzes the contentious transfer of “sticky” implicit knowledge during the outsourcing of labor from the United States to South Asia and the power dynamics involved in this transfer. Telesca takes a historical approach by exploring the role of imperial power within the United Nations in shaping the adoption of quantitative expertise in global fisheries management. Field examines how the introduction of veterinary concepts of animal wellbeing in state-run farmer education programs actually work against the goal of animal welfare regulation by framing animal behavior in monetary terms. Van Wichelen investigates the new forms of legal knowledge that arise from the extraction of genetic material through the Human Genome Project in Southeast Asia. Mebert draws our attention to the imbalances of power present in the legal struggles surrounding pipeline construction in the United States and how these imbalances create forms of epistemic injustice for the residents fighting to protect their homes. Taken together, these papers propose new theoretical and methodological frameworks for investigating the interplay between scientific and legal expertise in extractive capitalism.