Thesis ID: CBB001561137

Dinos & Demons: The Politics of Temporality and Responsibility in Science (2008)


Schrader, Astrid (Author)

Haraway, Donna Jeanne
University of California, Santa Cruz

Publication Date: 2008
Edition Details: Advisor: Haraway, Donna J.
Physical Details: 292 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation explores epistemological and ontological conditions for responsibility within scientific practices in relation to conceptions of time. "Scientific uncertainties" play a major role in current debates over environmental problems. In opposing a human time of knowledge production to the (a)temporality of the object of study, the very idea of uncertainty precludes responsibility in science, because it can neither account for the agency of the object of study nor for the work of the scientist. Developing a notion of responsibility based on fundamental indeterminacies that is attentive to multiple "histories" and "agencies," I draw from the work of feminist science studies scholar Karen Barad on "agential realism" and Jacques Derrida's "spectral logic" of time. Dissociating time from the "being of truth," with Derrida time becomes a matter of difference, justice, and responsibility. Reading Barad and Derrida together allows for a link between an ethical notion of responsibility and the materiality of scientific knowledge production. Dinos and demons are not only the main characters of two central chapters in this dissertation, but also embody complementary approaches toward responsibility in science. Toxic dinoflagellates such as Pfiesteria piscicida not only change the marine ecosystems of major U.S. estuaries, but also the political ecology of microbiology. Their environmentally induced toxicity demands the accounting for nonhuman agencies in scientific experimentations. Through an analysis of published experiments, I relate responsibility to the temporality of the objects enacted. I propose a phantomatic ontology that accounts for the agency of an object of study before that object exists as such. Refiguring causality in terms of inheritance, it becomes possible to articulate responsibility with objectivity in science. Maxwell's demon--a historical thought experiment in physics--figures the scientist's ability to acquire knowledge about the microscopic molecular world, but it is not supposed to work. My re-reading of historical interpretations of the demonic experiment deconstructs the so-called thermodynamic "arrow of time" and reconfigures scientific activities as intra-active work. Focusing on system theoretical approaches to ecologies, the dissertation concludes with an exploration of how conceptions of time and speed not only frame current environmental crises, but also structure possible responses.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 69/07 (2009). Pub. no. AAT 3323959.

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Authors & Contributors
DeLaplante, Kevin
Pollack, Henry Nathan
Kourany, Janet A.
Tanona, Scott Daniel
Fuller, Steven
Kusch, Martin
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Social Studies of Science
Philosophy of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Cambridge University Press
Pickering & Chatto
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Polity Press
Philosophy of science
Science studies, theoretical works
Certainty; uncertainty
Sociology of knowledge
Methodology of science; scientific method
Classification of knowledge
Darwin, Charles Robert
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Brooks, William Keith
Weismann, August
Mendel, Gregor Johann
Spencer, Herbert
Time Periods
20th century, late
19th century
20th century
21st century
Great Britain

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